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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery

Cooperation Beats Competition

Business leaders know that competition among employees can increase individual performance in their businesses. Jack Welch was famous for using this tool--if you fell into the bottom 10% of performers, you were fired.

Why does this work? You create an artificial “scarcity mentality” in which your team members compete for limited resources (money and status), and work harder for fear they won’t be able to provide for their families. Bottom line: fear is driving greater effort.

Fear, however, has limitations as a motivator. Your team stays in a “fight or flight” state of arousal, and people in this state understandably tend to be cranky and combative with others. This creates a lot of internal conflict.

People also demonstrate hoarding behavior with important information since they are afraid they will lose a competitive advantage in this “winners and losers” culture. Consistent motivation and productivity is impossible to sustain long term in this type of environment because of high turnover; i.e., people burn out from stress and leave for a happier place to work. High turnover is very costly to your profitability.

What if the Atlanta Falcons used this approach? Let’s assume that we have a team of A Players (you are hiring A Players, right?), but they have no incentives to cooperate and work together as a team. How many games will they win against teams that have A Players as well as a high level of teamwork? Not many. How long will the A Players stay on this unhappy team. Not long.

Alternatively, you as the leader can create an organizational culture of “abundance mentality.” Your team can leverage teamwork to create more wealth (a “bigger pie”) together, and they can be motivated by the excitement of pursuing the goals of the business while fulfilling their personal goals. Bottom line, this approach works a lot better to achieve financial success in your business.

So, what needs to be in place to create this high level of cooperation and teamwork (and win Super Bowls)?

High Performance Habits

  1. Hire A Players (top 10% performers). Seriously folks, if they’re not playing for your team, then they’re going to be playing against your team. They need to be competent and caring--good at what they do and play well with others.

  2. Reduce ambiguity by defining clear goals and roles. Teamwork depends on trust, and trust depends on doing what you say you’re doing to do, so first you have to say what you’re doing to do. At least 90% of the conflict I see in teams stems from ambiguity and the misunderstanding and miscommunication it creates.

  3. Create a compensation system that includes both individual performance and team performance incentives. For example, the team incentives could be profit sharing, phantom stock, real stock, etc. Sam Walton used to post the stock price of WalMart on the wall in every store because he wanted all employees to care about how the company was doing.

  4. Create a strong team communication plan that gets all team members the information they need when they need it so they can make good strategic and tactical decisions for the performance of the business.

  5. Resist any temptation to hoard leadership power and authority. Teamwork begins with the leader, so delegate early and often.

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