Winning isn’t Everything

This is a career tip that Roger Cameron and I wrote together close to 8 years ago.  I recently read this as I was working on updating our website.  It really resonated again with me and I wanted to share with those of you who have not previously read this.

In the last month, I have read no fewer than two articles and one book about the importance of not always winning.” You may be thinking – “Roger, have you lost your edge?” Don’t you remember Vince Lombardi’s quote, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing?” – Didn’t you say, “Companies want Development candidates who want to get into the game, make an impact, and lead their organization to the top?”  NO! I have not lost my edge. Like Coach Lombardi, I believe in winning and being successful, but I have learned I don’t need to “win” every argument, or feel as if I got MY point across in every discussion or conversation.  In fact, I learned that when I stop focusing on my personal “win,” the organization, the other person, etc., and I all win.  Learning and implementing this philosophy will help you understand how to “win” in your organization as well as your personal relationships. 

Leaders create healthy dialogue. 

In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors say it well; “People who are skilled at dialogue do their best to make it safe for everyone to add their meaning to the shared pool – even ideas that at first glance appear controversial, wrong, or at odds with their own beliefs.”  The result is, “[if] individuals are exposed to more accurate and relevant information, they make better choices.”  If you create an environment where others feel comfortable sharing points, ideas, thoughts, etc., and engaging in dialogue, you will have better and more accurate information, which leads to smarter decisions and improved results.  You can’t create this environment when you enter into conversations trying to convince others of your point of view and are not willing to listen to those who disagree with you.  I must admit this is hard to do, especially when you are passionate about an issue. It’s also difficult when dealing with a person who constantly plays the devil’s advocate.  Effective leaders, however, are able to put their emotions to the side, work with difficult people, ask for others’ input, encourage everyone to share ideas, listen, and create effective dialogue. 

Let others “own” their ideas. 

Has it ever happened where a peer, subordinate, spouse, or one of your children communicated an idea to you, only to have you respond with, “Good idea, but have you thought of…” or, “Here’s what you could do to make it even better…”?  Unintentionally, you are “winning” by attempting to mold their idea to your way of thinking, and in the process deflating their energy and passion.  If you keep doing this, they will stop sharing their ideas with you, and soon after that will stop bringing opinions, problems and even their questions.  I never thought of this until after reading an interview with executive leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith.  I thought Goldsmith’s observation paralleled well the concept of sharing ideas and creating a healthy dialogue from Crucial Conversations.  I have learned a more positive way to respond to others’ ideas. I thank them for their initiative and compliment them on their ingenuity.  If I perceive flaws in their thinking and logic, I pose questions to allow them to verbalize the progression of the idea and identify improvements on their own.

Being the leader doesn’t equal being the smartest person on the team.

A mistake some people make is equating leadership with having to know it all, and to being the smartest, most creative, innovative etc., individual on the team.  This attitude leads to forcing one’s will on others, “winning” arguments, and alienating people.  The great leader is rarely the smartest or most innovative, but rather is skilled in finding ways to engage individuals in healthy conversation, in energizing them, and in creating an environment where others can generate new ideas, test them, and own them.  It is important to understand your role as a leader if you want to have an engaged team of individuals who feel proud of their ideas and contributions.

The first step to achieving healthy dialogue and encouraging others to share ideas is to change your thoughts about “winning.”  Winning an argument, forcing an opinion on others, or taking another’s idea and making it your own may make you a “winner” in your mind, but will not be healthy for you or your team.  Begin with the end goal.  What do you want for this organization… for this person?  What is best for the customer?  This mentality with simple things – asking for opinions, thanking others for their input, complimenting individuals on their ideas, and listening – will allow you to create a team that “wins.”

Joel Junker and Roger Cameron

Copyright 2008. Cameron-Brooks,Inc. All rights reserved.