Is mine better than his?
In 2017, when I posted my first video on LinkedIn, I wanted it to be for a good cause. So, I explained to my daughter that she was going to pitch in front of the camera to sell one of the paintings we made together. I explained to her all the money that we would raise would go for charity.
At that time, I was getting to know the startup ecosystem within Belgium and was pitching startup ideas to various accelerators as a hobby. My daughter having seen me practicing pitching, was excited that she would be the one pitching now. She asked me “Dad, can I have a company of my own as well?”
I was extremely proud when she asked that, and said, “Yes, of course, what do you want to call it?”
She wanted to call the company Roche Craft . We started working on her company’s mission and defined it as making an awesome craft, selling it, and using the money to make the world a better place for children everywhere.
The first auction was a great success. It was then that I decided I would like to do at least two such auctions a year for different children’s charities.
Now, my daughter’s interest in her company has started waning. I had difficulty in motivating her to help me with the tasks that were required for the next iteration. Not being able to motivate her in a direct way, I used an indirect approach. I told her about a fictitious girl who lives in China who also has a company of her own and is selling paintings as well. I mentioned to her that this girl has already sold three paintings and is making three more to sell.
I absolutely underestimated the effect this perceived competition would have on my daughter. It had such an impact she started becoming a leader trying to motivate and inspire me to spend more time working on her company.
I never thought my son would get tired of Lego and not want to play on the weekends with me. However, this week, he wanted to skip our Lego date.
I used the same trick again. I told him the brother of the Chinese girl has made four cars out of Lego and he is going to win a prize because they are all so good and made to go extremely fast. Once again, the same trick worked like a charm. He was motivated to play Lego again, but this time, there was a clear purpose to what we were doing. I was not allowed to waste any time talking or multi-tasking. The mission was clear; we had to beat the Chinese boy and everything we did that day was only focused on that.
Both these times illustrated how perceived competition can drive our teams to excellence. It ensures focus and purpose in the tasks at hand. But most importantly, there is a tangible target and an opposition that we want to beat.
The competition also ensures that those members who are lagging behind are motivated by the team to work better and faster. Most importantly, it made those leaders who cannot motivate, into the leaders that motivate others around them.
Just creating competition probably would not have had the same effect as it did; had I not introduced clear number and target that my kids had to beat. In both cases of the painting as well as the Lego, the competition had numbers of finished projects that were set and that my kids wanted to beat. The goals were reachable and there was a clear line.
When gauging yourself against the competition, there is no point in just agreeing that competition exists. It’s even more important to understand why the competition is ahead and what must be done to ensure you can overtake their lead.
In business, we must know and agree that our competition has their eyes on everything we have to take it away, as well. After all, as Sidney Sheldon said, “Business is a game played for fantastic stakes, and you’re in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game.”
Reading this quote has given me insight into a few steps I will take to continue to motivate my kids.
Firstly, when they get into a groove and have done some good work on a certain day, I will share the good news that they have beaten their Chinese competitors. They will get a taste of victory and enjoy the stakes they have won.
A day or so later, I will tell them that there is another pair of Brothers and Sisters, this time from New Zealand, who have become real experts in the paintings and making Lego constructions. This will illustrate that their landscape is constantly changing. Others can come up at any time and disrupt the environment. I will also explain that expertise is something that can be learnt through hard work and practice and they must constantly work on their craft.
It will lay them up for the 3rd part of the lesson that if they want to win, they must master the game, and the only way to master the game is by constant practice, perseverance, and perfection.
Competition is probably one of the driving factors that got mankind out of the caves into new territories, and got us to cross the oceans into space and on the moon.
The constructive and destructive power due to the competition goes hand in hand in much the same way that good and evil go together in the Ying-Yang.
Like with anything in life, the excess is disastrous. Competition should be seen as salt to be added to taste.
The competition will bring out the best of us and our teams. Competition is also a pressure cooker; if not controlled in a mature and positive way, it will lead to corrosive culture and self-destruction.
I will continue using competition to drive my kids.
At your work, what are the areas where you feel your team can do better? Can you create a communication strategy highlighting the areas where improvement is required?
Are you able to benchmark your organization to others in that area? What are the tangible numbers they need to beat and are they achievable?
Most importantly, can you make them believe they can be the master of the game?
Social Media can be used to spread a positive or negative message. I made a conscious judgement that the first post I do on Social Media will not be self-serving, but to help others. We also made a rule that we will never post any negative messages putting someone down. If it’s not positive, we don’t post it.
In the same way, competition can also be used to create an aggressive or encouraging mindset within the organization.
I hope you use it to encourage your teams to drive for excellence.