Does competition mean that I win and you lose?

When you think of being in competition with someone, do you think that they have to lose in order for you to win? That is that the equation is someone wins and someone loses?

This week we have a quick story to show how reframing competition from this win/lose negative can end up being so very powerful (and ultimately more beneficial).

There’s a friend of mine who owns a business. It’s a successful business and has been running for some time. He is quite specialised in what he does, and he does it well.

Another business that has opened up within the very same circle. It’s the same sort of business, albeit with quite a different approach.

My friend knows the other business owner; indeed even gave him some advice on how to get started in the very beginning.

What’s interesting about all this is that whilst the two businesses are actually quite different in their approach; you could say that they are in competition for broadly the same clientele.  In this economic market, that might make some people feel a bit uncomfortable, as though their turf was being invaded. As though, in order for the other business to do well, their business needs to suffer.

What’s fabulous about my friend’s approach is that not only has he supported and welcomed the “competition”, he told me that he wants to sample their wares so that he can refer people who are looking for that particular approach and service.

Things that have stood out for me about this:

  • He is crystal clear about his customers, his business and his niche.  He knows what he is good at, and what he can offer that is different to anyone else.
  • He has an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity. Yes, there is less money to go around but he is interested in the right clients rather than any clients, and he is also interested in all the clients getting the right service for them, rather than any service.
  • Just because they clients chose to go to the other company didn’t mean that they were rejecting him.

We have talked about generosity in business before and how that can lead to more success. I think it is interesting that in these times when the temptation might be to close ranks and go to the more traditional win/lose model of competition, that actually turning the model on its head and looking for how competition can be a win/win might mean good things for everyone.

What does this mean for the workplace more generally and your leadership approach?

  • Firstly, be clear on what you bring to the table — what do you have that is different to anyone else. As Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic says in a recent interview; “yes, it’s all been done before — but not by you!” You bring a uniqueness that no one else has. Being clear (and celebrating) your strengths and your “offering” to the organisation can mean that you know what you bring that no one else does. I am not talking about doing the work — most work can be done by multiple people — I am talking about how you do the work.  The special thing that you alone bring to the role, the task, the job.
  • Then think of how best can you utilise your niche, your expertise.  So, yes, there may only be a certain number of key positions that people are “competing” for. But perhaps using the abundance model might show possibilities that are beyond the traditional hierarchal organisational model.  There has always been a bit of a dog eat dog mentality towards competition and progression in the workplace. I wonder if reframing how we think about competition in terms of abundance rather than scarcity could change that mentality.  Certainly in these more difficult economic times, being creative and open, rather than closed and narrow has to be a win/win for everyone.

So this week’s takeaways:

  • Competition doesn’t need to mean that someone wins and someone loses;
  • Yes, it has all been done before — but not by you;
  • If you reframed the workplace looking through the lens of abundance rather than scarcity, what would that look like?

Until next week, happy leading.

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Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.
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