If you know me personally or professionally—or even through my posts here—you know that sports shaped much of my young and early adult life. While participation in sports has many benefits, it can also weigh our mindsets more toward competition, which doesn’t always play out well in a business setting.
I’ve learned this a bit the hard way, and working to shift those strongly ingrained tendencies hasn’t always been easy for me. Admitting that they could be an issue isn’t easy either, but, if I’ve learned anything in the past several years, it’s that allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to accept shortcomings and talk about them openly has led to tremendous growth—and that, in turn, has led to greater trust from those on my team who work most closely with me.
Today, I want to share with you some of the ideas that have guided my development and what they can mean for other leaders as well. Let’s start with the “Go-Giver” series of books by Bob Burg and John David Mann. I’ve read—and thoroughly enjoyed—all of the books in this series and they all challenged me in different ways. Most significant was “The Go-Giver Influencer” (likely because it addressed the connection between sports and competition, which is especially relevant to my situation).
I’ve always considered myself someone with a lot of drive and hunger; a real go-getter, as they say.
These all sound like positive traits on the surface, but those who embody them also tend to be very self-focused. So, while it isn’t inherently negative to be ambitious, the drawbacks are that those of us who tend to stretch ourselves and our organizations also have a more difficult time acting for the greater good.
We want to win. But the concept of winning implies that there is also a loser.
The win/lose dynamic simply doesn’t have a proper place in the business world. Yet, we’re all instilled with this mentality, even if we weren’t raised playing sports. It exists in anyone who grew up in a traditional schooling scenario where grades, and the notions of passing or failing, and how we measure up against our classmates are indoctrinated in us all from a young age. Breaking free from those imprints takes conscious effort—but the result is absolutely worth it.
When you’re focused on yourself, you can really alienate other people, because your advancements and successes can be at the cost of others. But, when you’re a go-giver, you harness that energy toward collaboration—and everyone wins because they’re all working toward the benefit of the whole.
How this new mindset has played out for me, is that I’ve become less inhibited to engage in dialogue, and healthy debate, and sparring for the greater good. My ego is less involved and I’m less concerned with coming out on top. Fear of failure is replaced with confidence that I am building teamwork and partnerships that could propel the business toward stratospheric success. When I reflect on these interactions, I also see the shared learning and healthy relationships that have evolved.
I’m not saying I’ve completely changed. Old habits creep in from time to time, and I have to remind myself to lower the competition meter and up the collaboration meter. But, when I’m able to skew my thinking more toward collaboration I can see how we’re able to move conversations forward.
If this resonates with you, I highly encourage you to check out the “Go-Giver” books. Be prepared to be challenged, but know that, like me, you will be better for it!