I’m all about it – winning, competing, the buzz, and yeah, even losing. Losing keeps you caring about winning.
Not everyone sees it like that, though. Some think we should all just get along and that having rivals is old news.
But here’s my take – real competition with rivals pushes us to be better than we thought we could be. Without that push, we’d never hit our top performance.
The snag with rivals at work is it can get ugly real quick if it’s not handled right. That’s why some folks say we don’t need rivals in society.
A badly managed rivalry, especially at work, can wreck the vibe faster than anything else. It turns into a “me against them” deal, even when ‘them’ is just another part of ‘us’!
But, if done right, rivalries can light a fire under leaders and teams, taking them to some crazy high performance levels. External rivals, like competitors, bring that extra kick. Those are the rivalries we love – kicking the competition’s butt!
Internal rivals can be just as motivating, maybe even more because it’s real. Your rival is someone you know, or at least more than your competition.
This relationship with an internal rival is where the energy comes from, both good and bad. We hope these internal rivalries drive both sides to greatness, but it doesn’t always pan out that way.
Usually, internal rivals end up trying to outdo each other, when what we really want is both sides reaching greatness and cheering each other on. I used to think it wasn’t doable when I was a young leader.
One side wins, one side loses. That’s a rivalry.
But over time, I’ve seen that the best leaders figure out ways for healthy rivalries, getting everyone to back each other up and celebrate together. It’s about plenty – there’s enough success for all of us. As you succeed, and your co-workers succeed, that success lifts us all.
I first saw this in college sports. A coach taught us to push each other as rivals in practice when it helps us be our best. But when it’s game time, we stick together to reach our goal of winning. It’s about the team.
So, leaders, when you’re setting up internal rivalries, keep in mind that concept of plenty and togetherness. It’s about me, until it’s about we. The leader’s got to show us where that line is.