Life is Better With Rivals!

I like it all! The winning, the competition, the energy, and yes, even the losing. Without losing you stop caring about trying to win.

Not everyone thinks this way. In fact, many don’t think this way. There is a belief in the world we don’t need rivals. We should all get along and “rival” is a concept that is no longer relevant.

Can’t we all just get along?

I have a belief that true rival competition brings out of us a level we did not believe we are capable of. Without this “rival”, we would never reach our upper limits of performance.

The problem with rivals in work is that it can quickly become negative and destructive if left unchecked. This is one reason that some people will say the concept of having rivals isn’t really needed in society.

A rivalry is not channeled properly, especially in the work environment, can kill a culture faster than almost any single factor. It becomes a her vs. her event, or a us vs. them event when the ‘them’ is really just another part of us!

Rivalries, though, give leaders a great motivation element that can take individuals and teams to very high levels of performance. It’s great when that rival is an outside rival. When it’s about kicking the competition’s ass! We love those rivalries.

Internal rivals can also be super motivating, in fact, sometimes more motivating because the rival is real. Your rival is someone you know very well or at least more than you probably know someone at your competition.

This relationship with an internal rival is where the energy comes from, both positive and negative. Our hope is internally these rivalries will drive both sides to greatness, but that’s not how it usually works out.

Usually, those internal rivals end up trying to beat each other, when what we truly want is both to reach great levels of performance and then celebrate each other. I used to think this wasn’t possible when I was a young leader.

One side won. One side lost. That’s a rivalry.

I’ve learned over time that the best leaders actually find ways for healthy rivalries, and get all those participating to support each other and their success. The concept of plenty. There’s plenty here for all of us. As you find success, and your co-workers find success, that wave of success will carry us all higher.

The first time I witnessed this was on the athletic field with college athletics and a kid taught me. This college kid was fighting his butt off each and every day to win a starting position, and keep that starting position, against teammates who were desperately trying to take that position for themselves.

I asked this kid how does your coach get you to fight each other so hard for playing time, but then at the game time you support each other with such passion and love?

He looked at me and said, “We have one common goal, to win. To win, we have to be pushed to be our very best. We owe it to each other to push each other in practice. Once we get to the game we only have each other to rely on to reach our goal of winning. It’s about the team.”

The coach, the leader, if they’re good, teach this concept. We push each other as rivals when it’s beneficial for us to be rivals to reach the best we can be. Also, we support each other to reach our ultimate ‘team’ goal. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.

I want to wildly successful. I want you to be wildly successful. I want us to be wildly successful. Me being successful without you being successful pains me, because you are part of my team.

As leaders, when you look to create internal rivals, understand that concept of plenty and together. It’s about me, until it’s about we. The leader, often has to show us where that line is.

2 thoughts on “Life is Better With Rivals!

  1. Tim, great thoughts! As an U of I Alumni wrestler, I’d have to say I relate to that college athlete you refer to. My team won the Big Ten Team title in 2004-05, with 40 people and only 10 starting spots. All 30 non-starters busted it out for the greater team each day and b/c of that we were each awarded a ring.
    From a work perspective, its the same thing when there is competition and a scoreboard is being kept by the team members themselves…when score is being kept – we have a reputation to upkeep! If you’ve never read it – 4 Disciplines of Execution is a pretty cool book on this concept….love it!

  2. Good post for me to read on the day of UNC vs Duke – the biggest rivalry in sports. Man I hate the Blue Devils, but I have to admit that watching college basketball would be a lot less fun without this rivalry. Go Heels!

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