By Jacqueline Antonetti Moreno – Transformational Communicator. Diversity Expert. Bestselling Author. Solutions Finder.
Throughout my life I have been a firm believer that we should compete with ourselves instead of spend our life competing with others. Namely, we should focus on being the best version possible of ourselves and make sure that we are better today than who we were yesterday. However, I kind of knew this instinctively, but wasn’t really aware of what were the benefits of having that “life philosophy” until about 12 years ago.
Back in the early 2000s in Venezuela, where I grew up and lived for over 30 years, there were two main cellular service providers which were so competitive that they kept highlighting in their tv ads what they did better than the competitor. Such “ads war” was actually fun to watch, to the point that people couldn’t wait for the reply of the competitor when one of the companies launched a new advertising campaign.
One day at a family reunion, my brother had been recently hired to be the VP Commercial Operations of one of the companies, and we talked about the competition described above. We all made our comments regarding how much fun to watch this was and so on, and then he said, with a smile on his face that the last ad was the last one we would see addressing the fails of the competitor. He had started a new advertising policy: they would focus on highlighting what they did great instead of highlighting what others did wrong.
We all looked kind of lost, but my “aha moment” came when he explained the reason why he did that. He said something like “we have powerful qualities that I’m sure that if people knew about them, we would be the top of mind choice for many of them. But we are so focused on attacking the competitor that we are forgetting about what we have to offer.”
Boom! It suddenly hit me! My life philosophy made sense! I was still being a ‘rare human’ for thinking the way I do, but my brother’s word had just validated that it was okay to be rare.
So, here are the reasons why I strongly believe that it’s much more productive for both, business and individuals, to be competent instead of being competitive.
- Along the lines of what my brother said, when a person (or a business) focuses on competing with others he/she loses focus on themselves. And what happens when we lose focus on ourselves? We disconnect from who we really are and what we have to offer. Conversely, when we focus on being competent we must be aware of our talents and strengths which means that we pay attention to whom we really are.
- When competing with others, our uniqueness is lost. For something (or somebody) to be able to be ‘better than’, both subjects must have identical features/qualities. Otherwise, how can we compare them? We can’t compare apples to pears. Then, we work on being/looking/acting just like our competitor. On the other hand, when we focus on being competent, we work on improving that what makes us different.
- When we compete with others, we put our self worth on other people’s hands. Because we disconnect from who we really are and forget about what makes us unique, we end up believing that we are not as good as others and this has a tremendous impact in our self image and, therefore, in our performance. When we focus on being our best possible version, we are not measuring ourselves by what others have accomplished but by how far we have gotten. This enables us to fully play the role we are meant to play. And yes, this happens to organizations as well! Remember that businesses are ran by human beings.
- When we focus on competing with others, we are more prone to create conflict than to build alliances. It’s not a secret how powerful teamwork is; a business can’t grow if employees don’t work in teams, and a high performance team is built on the foundations of strong alliances. When we focus on being competent, we are not ego driven and this allows us to just be authentic, to be a team player, to focus on the common goal, and to simply ‘be the piece needed to complete the puzzle.’
- When we focus on being competent, we are capable to recognize the value that others bring to the table and we open ourselves to learn from them. Inversely, when we compete with others, the fear of not being ‘as good as’ or ‘better than’ blocks us from seeing what we can do better.
- Similar to point #5, when a person is focused on building competenciesinstead of competing, he/she has no issues on being accountable because he/she knows they have total responsibility on their results. People who are focused on competing tend to blame others for their failures, whether ‘others’ refer to people or situations, missing a great opportunity for growth and evolution.
- Usually, competition prevents people from seeing the great value that diversity brings to their lives, whether we talk from the business stand point or as an individual. Diversity is a huge strength because it’s the seed for creativity and innovation. When we focus on building competencies we open ourselves to see the value that those differences add to us, to our evolution, and ultimately, to our vision.
I could keep writing about the importance of focusing on building competencies vs. competing, but I think these seven reasons sum up well my point.
I encourage professionals on leading roles to share these thoughts with their teams and inspire their team members to work on themselves as the ‘secret formula’ to achieve the common goal. I can assure you that they will be happier, more motivated employees and therefore, the organization’s productivity will grow exponentially.