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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #95
(October 6, 2020)

Are You Ready to Compete ... with YOURSELF?

Having started my business career in sales, I'm well aware of how competition works inside an organization. Every month our individual sales numbers were ranked-ordered on a large banner in the meeting room to clearly—and VISIBLY—delineate the winners ... as well as those who played but didn't win (notice I didn't say "losers" although that's how it felt when you were low on the sales board).

During my time as a sales representative and, subsequently, as the sales manager for this group, I noticed that certain personalities were attracted to, and motivated by, this intense level of competition; others were okay with this competitive environment, but they weren't driven by the need to be #1; some were turned off by this type of competition and, in most cases, didn't end up staying with the organization.

While this example might be on the extreme end of workplace competition, I think it would be fair to say that most organizations create a dynamic in which employees 'compete' against each other. This competition might be for advancement opportunities; or for bonuses and other forms of recognition; or for special projects; or for budget, people, and other resources. Regardless, competition is an inherent and inescapable part of most work environments.

On the plus-side, competition between employees can naturally lead to enhanced performance and reduce status quo thinking; it can improve the quality of the work produced; it can fuel creative problem-solving and innovative ideas; it can lead to employees taking on more responsibility; it can also make work more interesting for those who enjoy a challenge. On the minus-side, too much competition can sabotage collaboration and teamwork; it can increase stress; it can also lead to mistrust if employees view one another as "competitors."

Up to this point we've been discussing typical versions of within-groups competition. But is there a type of competition that is often overlooked? That delivers predictable and significant returns? That has practically no down-side? The answer is yes ... it turns out that the best competition occurs when you compete with YOURSELF!

My work in behavioral psychology has demonstrated—time and time again—that employees are less motivated by extrinsic factors (prizes and cash rewards) and more motivated by intrinsic factors. Yes, I know that extrinsic rewards may create a sudden spike in performance, but intrinsic factors are more likely to generate a long-term behavioral change. Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive—The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, posits that prizes and cash rewards (extrinsic motivators) don't last. Instead, intrinsic motivators such as the drive to do well—the desire to deliver a "job well done"—are what really drive performance. It turns out that people are motivated by challenges, not necessarily rewards.

In this issue of CORE Bites, let's look at a few ways to instill this healthy and individualized and intrinsic version of competition within our respective teams (as well as within ourselves). Remember, no competition ... no progress!

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

This week (starting today), look for ways to include these HVAs in your discussions with individual members of your team, as well as during your personal self-development reflection time:

  • LEARN ... or Remain the Same: Organizations typically have broad-based employee development initiatives that your team (and you) may be included in. While these programs can be beneficial, they may not be specific enough for what's necessary on an individual basis. Based on your work with each individual on your team, you're in a very good position to know where the specific growth areas are. Help each member of your team take ownership for this and choose WHAT he/she needs/wants to develop and HOW she/he needs/wants to develop. We each learn differently ... and at a different pace ... so this needs to be customized around each individual. The main emphasis here is that the majority of the desired learning will not be found in a classroom—the best learning is experiential—learning by doing!
  • Start Small: It can seem overwhelming to "become a better communicator" or "become a better leader." However, if you break the desired target into smaller steps, then each step will seem less formidable. Incremental Improvement means to challenge yourself to achieve a modest goal that you can grow from. From this new vantage point, you're ready to reach for the next step and so on. Each of these milestones empowers and encourages us to continue.
  • Focus on Strengths: When it comes to self-improvement, people often concentrate on learning something new. But, frequently, it can be more beneficial to spend time on getting better at what you're already good at, than struggling to improve upon your weaknesses. It's human nature to focus on our negatives, but if you can strengthen something you're already good at, you may find a greater return on the investment of time.
  • We Learn by Trial-and-Error not by Trial-and-Accuracy: Encourage your team (and yourself) to extract the key learnings out of every personal experience whether this experience turns out positive or negative. If we treat life and work as a 'Learning Laboratory' then the best teacher we'll have are the experiences themselves. Once this mindset takes hold, encourage your team to share these learning experiences not as "Mistakes Made" but, instead, as "Key Learnings."

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"The biggest competition is myself. I am not looking to follow others or pull them down.
I'm planning to test my own boundaries."

— Rain Phoenix —