Winners or losers at work: Competition or contribution?

Winners or losers at work: Competition or contribution?
Leaders and teams: Are you losing the game of competition or winning the game of contribution at work?

What kinds of game do you play at work? Do you have a lot of competition? Who is keeping score? Do you know what the rules are? Who defines the rules? Do the rules change each day? Who wins and how? Are there losers? Are you making a contribution?

Perhaps these are strange questions to ask in the context of the workplace – but not really. All of us know, if we have been in the workforce for any length of time, the games that get played.

I want to talk about how to change the game for leaders and teams.

I take inspiration from a book called The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander. Every once in a while I revisit that book for some nuggets of wisdom and I am sharing a bit here. I highly recommend the book if you haven’t read it.

This is just one thought and it came to me today because as a leadership coach and consultant, I often hear stories about challenging workplaces, team conflict or lack of leadership. I hear about high levels of stress and inordinate demands that exceed suitable workloads.

Set a positive tone, expectations and rules

Without leaders and teams agreeing on the tone, their expectations, and the rules about how the work game gets played, that game can quickly devolve into a scrappy match of dog-eat-dog. Sometimes it is overt and other times the work games can be a bit more like subterfuge or espionage.

Motivation and engagement are hard to maintain in this kind of workplace culture. Everyone plays a role in this game of work and no one should abdicate their responsibility as a team player. However, it is essential that the leader of the game sets the tone.

In a world of increasing complexity, we need to be free to bring our whole selves to the workplace – mind, body and spirit.  But. in a challenging workplace, parts of ourselves might play hide and seek instead.

So today, for leaders and teams, if you want to introduce just one idea into how you might shift ever so slightly away from competition, climbing, stress, winning, and losing, into a sense of possibility where people can feel valued and have a sense of significance and meaning – here is the idea..

Create time once each week at team meetings to let people take inventory of how they are a contribution to the work or the world. Anything can be put on the table. It might be something work-related or maybe something completely separate. Allow people to brainstorm all the ways that have contributed either at work or in their family or society. Let them be specific.

Ideas? Wrote a report, closed a sale, rescued a cat. visited an elderly person, made a meal for someone sick, landed a new client, invented a new tool or process, found financial efficiencies . . .

Let people share and let people celebrate – every week.

In the game of competition, you get winners and losers. In the game of contribution, everyone has value and everyone wins.

If you shift to a game of contribution – watch the transformation in mindset, engagement and sense of possibility that can re-energize people even in the face of challenging workloads and constant whitewater.

If you try this please leave me a comment on this blog or Linked In profile or on Facebook and tell me how it went.

Here is what I know for certain:
– Leaders with integrity give credit where credit is due and let others shine.
– Fostering deep self awareness through Spiritual Intelligence supports allows to let go of control and serve others.
– Giving others room to make contributions and demonstarte their efficacy contributes to Resilience at Work.
– Using MBTI (Meyers Briggs Personaility Inventory) increases self-awareness and other awareness that can enhance team collaboration and collective contribution rather than divisive competition.

If you want more conversations about ways to shift to a healthy workplace culture, book a free consult with me.

Resource:   Zander, Rosamund Stone; Zander, Benjamin. The Art of Possibility (pp. 59-63). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.

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