Teamwork and collaboration are vital aspects of a functioning workplace. Having a clear set of business goals to work towards is the function of any good team. As work becomes more complex and specialized, greater collaboration is required to succeed. However, while teamwork is essential, healthy team competition is something that management should harness to make the most from their resources.
While some team members will respond best to a culture that promotes collective goals, other members thrive in more individualistic spaces. Both approaches can be powerful and productive when used correctly.
Creating a culture that allows teams to compete is a great way to improve morale and improve the bottom line.
What are the Benefits of Team Competitions?
There is an adage that “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with a team.” Put another way, competition makes individuals run harder and faster, while collaboration makes us work better for holistic outcomes.
People are competitive by nature. Over recent years, particularly in teaching and academic circles, there has been a tendency to cast competition in a negative light. However, people are competitive by nature. As children, we compete for our parent’s attention. At school, we learn to compete and contest one another in games and events for fun. And once we become adults, we join and participate in the job market and compete with each other for jobs, pay raises, and promotions.
Sales, in particular, is known for its dog-eat-dog, target-oriented environment. While some might look at that world and suggest that managers are pitting colleagues against each other, the reality is more complex.
Competition encourages employees to improve their skills and to become more creative. If they want to win, they need to bring their A-game. Additionally, to motivate employees to overcome challenges, there needs to be a reward system in place. One of the most proven and time-honored methods is a leaderboard that shows staff performance transparently.
While the sales leaderboard has a reputation of being about solo goals, more innovative companies realize that they can leverage competition by placing employees into teams to reap the benefit of both competition and collaboration.
Organizations that create healthy competition can get excellent results from individuals. They can, however, leverage the same competition by putting individuals into teams to reap the business benefits of both competition and collaboration.
For success in modern business, organizations must aggressively chase growth goals and face pressure to hit quarterly reporting targets.
So, the question is whether high performance comes from promoting competition amongst reps or encouraging collaboration. Let’s explore!
Why Should Teams Compete?
Competition is traditionally how organizations have driven their staff — particularly sales staff. Some of the benefits have included the following:
Leaderboards help create a culture that ranks employees by their activities and progress towards a target. The will to win leads employees to try to outdo one another, especially if there is a prize for “winning” the competition. The closeness of colleagues can induce a sense of urgency. They crave the reward, as well as the personal sense of accomplishment. For example, competitions can be done by the week, month, or year to help create a culture where employees strive for their best.
Competition encourages staff to look to improve their skills and ideas. They might streamline an existing process or define a new approach to speed up the sales cycle. They might use technology to make more calls or automate emails so that the pipeline moves with minimal interaction. Leaders can employ social media to maintain informal communication links and provide product updates to everyone who follows the person or the organization.
Competition pushes people out of their comfort zone. Striving to be number one requires extra effort and tenacity. Excellent sales reps have a big enough ego to survive the slings and arrows of client interaction. They can handle rejection and move on quickly to the next prospect or activity. This is a rare attribute.
The downside to the competition is that employees don’t mentor underperforming colleagues. They don’t share their secrets to success if someone uses their approach to beat them to the prize. They preserve the opportunity to achieve higher individual goals, often at the expense of organizational objectives.
For example, if a successful employee leaves the team, unshared knowledge can leave with them.
Why Should Teams Collaborate?
Collaboration encourages staff to work with each other instead of against each other. This provides the environment to leverage best practices and increase efficiency and effectiveness. In a collaborative situation, everyone feels safe to share their best practices and learnings to help the organization succeed. When each employee feels like an essential part of the group, managers can feel assured they can get the most from their resources.
Learn From One Another
Collaboration provides an opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and failures to enable a team learning organizational approach. This is how companies prepare strategies and scenarios for unanticipated changes in their ecosystem. It also allows the business to concentrate on a mixture of short and long-term goals by assigning tasks to those best to deliver against these targets.
Break Down Barriers
Collaboration within a single department is important; however, the biggest uplift in results comes from extending that collaborative approach across all departments in an organization. Highly successful companies may include partners and suppliers in this collaboration to ensure all links in the supply chain are operating effectively. This also provides a great feedback loop as everyone contributes information to the company’s knowledge base about customers and products.
A culture of team collaboration eliminates silos of data, information, and communication, allowing everyone to express their opinions and expertise to deliver the company goals better.
Setting goals on a team performance level encourages a better level of staff engagement. It motivates everyone to share common objectives rather than a “what’s in it for me” approach. It is still important to recognize individual contributions within the team environment and celebrate the achievement of milestones.
Can’t We Have The Best of Both Competition and Collaboration?
The recent taco ad suggests we don’t have to choose one approach over another. The best teams encourage both collaboration and competition – reps should collaborate with their peers to compete against the industry and competitors. Engaged staff can help their company outperform the competition by up to 202%.
One of the key things to concentrate on is that collaboration isn’t about ‘leveling the playing field.’ It is about helping each person perform to their best level and achieve success for the organization and themselves.
And it’s important to note a few things about competition.
- It doesn’t have to be on an individual level – it can be on a group or team level, or there can be multiple winners.
- It doesn’t always have to be revenue-based. The best way to deliver better business results is to focus staff on the eventual sale or closed deal activities. This could be emails sent or phone calls completed. It could also be about deals advanced through the sales stage or meetings set up with clients.
- It doesn’t have to include a monetary reward. Winners could receive experiences such as a balloon flight or a half-day off work, a team dinner, or even a certificate or medal to hang at their desks.
Thoughts on Competition from a Harvard Business Professor
Amy Edmondson, a Novartis Professor, and contributor to the Harvard Business Review, has some exciting ideas about creating and motivating employees. In a regularly cited blog post from some years ago, she suggests that while a competitive mindset is key to personal success but can lead to a lack of sharing information if left unchecked.
Edmondson suggests creating a teaming mindset, where each employee can look outward rather than inwards, as key to good team competition.
How To Get Team Members on Board
Edmondson’s advice largely falls on team leaders and managers to take the steps that produce a culture that gets rid of unhealthy competition. As mentioned above, the competition itself is not a problem; however, it is when it gets in the way of broader company goals.
Two ideas she suggests are first to place a higher value on the team rather than individual success. This could take the form of team incentives that dwarf personal rewards.
Secondly, she encourages leaders to frame the particular work challenge — be it a project, sales, or a related initiative — as something that would benefit from diverse skills and perspectives.
The idea is to motivate a team with fun competition, which can lead to a creative and collaborative mindset. Team members can still strive to be the best, but their competitive spirit is focused on team competition and not individualism.
Despite what some people suggest, there is nothing wrong with competition. However, it needs to be harnessed correctly to get the most from employees’ ability. Healthy competition can lead to greater employee morale, more fun in the office, and a hunger to improve skills and ideas.
However, as projects become more complex and specialist, team collaboration increases in importance. This leads managers to rethink how they can make the most from their company resources and team ability. Team competition can provide a way to use the power of employees’ personal motivation for success across the organization.
The Role of Technology
Spinify solutions empower today’s workforce by connecting employees across offices or keeping them up to date when they are out of the office. Motivational enablement tools such as leaderboards provide the foundation for competition and team collaboration in the workplace.
They use real-time data from a company’s data app and re-visualize it as the ranking and individual information on a TV or a smartphone app. Leaderboards can focus on individuals or teams so that a company can choose the best approach for the problems they face right now. They also introduce the key aspects of gamification with points, badges, and levels so that staff achievement is on display for all to see with these simple adornments.
Companies achieve better results with leaderboards that encourage a variety of motivational approaches, competition, or collaboration. You choose what it will be today!
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