Collaborative Strategies for Thriving Together
Competition, a healthy driving force in many worlds. However when the chase for power, ownership or control is pushed too far it becomes counter productive. The result erodes team dynamics, morale, hinders creativity, and leads to a fractured or disenfranchised team, a toxic competitive culture. The relentless pursuit of success impacts individual well-being and overall team productivity. Tempering competition with collaboration, drive and teamwork allows a healthy yet productive culture to flourish.
Phase one – getting to the root of a competitive culture
Firstly, establish a safe, open space where individuals can speak freely, difficult questions are asked and frank discussions held. This identifies root behaviours which drive overly competitive cultures. By engaging your teams and individuals in reflective exercises to explore motivation, it uncovers personal and collective drivers behind competitive mindsets. From here we can begin to pinpoint healthy and unhealthy behaviours which have become entwined and embedded in the culture. Whilst it is interesting to note the form of behaviours it is also important to reflect back the effect and impact they have. Holding a mirror up to those that are unaware of the ramifications they have on others is key to changing behaviours. In a difficult environment a coach is an ideal foil for office politics, or powers, that can so easily corrode the ability to have honest exchanges safely.
Exercises to explore competition
Here are some of my go-to exercises once a coaching environment has been established.
• Reflective exercises. The use of 360 feedback to gather a multi-perspective approach revealing patterns of behaviours and areas where competitiveness can be particularly pronounced amongst teams and or individuals.
• Exploration of organisational values compared to observed behaviours.
• Assessment of the role leadership have in fostering or mitigating competitiveness. These conversations can prove difficult particularly with the power imbalance (who is willing to tell their CEO they exacerbate a situation?!) this is where an external coach can be useful in holding a challenging, frank conversation within a supportive environment.
• Working towards shifting mindsets so that rather than focussing on winning or losing, emphasis is placed on opportunities to learn.
• Celebration of collective achievement, acknowledging and rewarding collaborative efforts to reinforce the idea that success is a shared and uniting endeavour.
The essentials to allow healthy competition to flourish
There are of course many more activities which can be undertaken to ensure that the correct balance is struck between competition and a healthy culture. However, key to unlocking the foundations are the fostering of open communication, embracing a growth mindset, celebrating collective achievements and establishing common goals all set within a healthy environment where support and challenge is offered in equal measure. With these in place businesses can create a culture that values collaboration setting the stage for sustained success.