Leaders: Do you have healthy competition?

competition with myselfThere is nothing wrong with being competitive.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to win.  It’s how you go about it that makes competition healthy or not.

Healthy competition focuses on improving yourself and as Bill Walsh said, “Letting the score take care of itself.” Unhealthy competition focuses only on defeating others, and looks for methods to accomplish just that.

Healthy competition provides for positive outcomes beyond the short term success of winning any one game or medal in sports; and any one client or contract in business.

Here are the three different ways that healthy competition improves your chances for long term success:

Healthy competition improves your individual performance.

The physical evidence of healthy competition is the medal, trophy, certificate, or bonus.  While most people won’t turn away these outward rewards for their efforts, the true competitor is competing with themselves for their personal satisfaction.

“Competition in its best form is a test of self.  It has nothing to do with medals.  The winner is the person who gets the most out of themselves.” – Al Oerter, Olympic gold medal champion discus thrower.

When you compete against yourself, your reward comes at the end of each day that you did the best you could, and improved your performance.

“The principle is competing against yourself.  It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.” – Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers quarterback

Healthy competition improves your team and your industry.

Coke and Pepsi, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, McDonalds and Burger King, Michigan and Ohio State, Microsoft and Apple.  What do these pairs have in common?  They are all great rivals who spur each other to improve.

Each one follows the creative output from the other and seeks to match and surpass their success.  Whether it is an innovative product or a new play, each team and industry is better off for surpassing what is thought of as success today.

Bill Gates acknowledged this healthy competition when he said, “Whether it’s Google or Apple or free software, we’ve got some fantastic competition and it keeps us on our toes.”

Healthy competition forces your team to focus on continuous improvement of basic common activities. This has been true since the invention of the automobile.

 “Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs.” – Henry Ford

Healthy competition improves your relationships.

Great competitors share a sense of respect for other great competitors; an admiration for their abilities that brings a common bond of friendship.

Here is an example of a healthy competition between two long time friends:

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, faced each other for the eighth time in the 2013 NCAA college basketball tournament, this time in the Sweet 16.  They first met in 1994 when Duke beat Michigan State in the second round.

Each of these winning head coaches respects the abilities of the other and their team.  In the 2013 press conference Izzo said, “There’s no question that if you look at the NCAA Tournament and what’s been done. Nobody’s Duke because Duke is Duke.”  And what does Krzyzewski think about Izzo? “He’s a coach’s coach. He’s a guy’s guy. With all the success, he’s a humble guy…There’s not a thing I don’t like about Tom, and he’s become a good friend over the years.”

Their mutual respect and friendship in no way lessons their healthy competition. Izzo discussed their upcoming game and said, “He appreciates that we’re going to compete, and they’re going to compete…It’s going to be war.”

Jesse Owens, the famous track and field Gold Medal winner summed this up well when he said,

“Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition.  Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.”


6 Responses to Leaders: Do you have healthy competition?
  1. Karin Roots on Facebook

    Competition..over what!!!!

  2. Karin Roots on Facebook

    It sounds as if some are doing to much..never confuse the two..me an someone else??? good day.

  3. Karin Roots on Facebook

    It is as if one needs to asks permission to live an be self…please dont send anything else trying to lash out..in any direction..some make millions from..today tomorrow are the next she really doesnt need …only positives thanks!

  4. Karin Roots on Facebook

    positives positives….keep the drama ….I dont care to entertain…!!

  5. Change the World Through Leadership Now on Facebook

    Karin, you raise very valid points and I had hoped they were addressed in this post. We agree, healthy competition is not comparing yourself to anyone else; it is only comparing yourself with the best you can be.

  6. Renae Richardson

    I fully agree. I have recently rediscovered this truth. I unknowingly found myself in a competition of sorts. The situation I was in although unintended became competitive. In the beginning it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I felt that I just did not measure on the comparative scale. No matter how much I was achieving I just felt i couldn’t match the achievement of the others.

    For the longest I have always held myself against the light of others and attempted to judge my worth base on where I supposedly fit on that scale. It always hindered me from improving myself because I would resign. I would say I will never measure up or reach that level of achievement. Often times I fell short in selling myself short. . Through my most recent experience I have learned to take the situation for what it is look at it differently and challenge myself. I am continuing working to improve myself and top what I was last week. I am thankful for the push. All the time I am improving in ways that I never would have if I didn’t change my outlook. Maybe that was not the intention but it worked to improve me so that I can excel way beyond where I would have. That is essentially what healthy competition can do for you if placed in the right perspective.

    I am no longer competing as I see it because there is no comparison to be made it is just me being the very best I can be. Sometimes we can look at the wrong things and we try to fit into a certain mold and compare ourselves on some assumed scale. What if we simply didn’t fit on that scale or we were beyond the mold. If we would change our focus even just a tiny bit I think we would begin to see the uniqueness of our value and our contributions despite the achievement of others. We would start to look at what we can achieve in our own right.