Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Team Competition: Playing in the Sandbox

Leaders! Come on now. Remember kindergarten. What good comes from throwing sand into other's eyes? Yeah, I know--we feel good for a couple of seconds, but then we usually get called upon to clean up the mess. So why make the mess in the first place?

In the world of team dynamics there is always going to come a time when teams or organizations come into conflict or competition. Competition can be a good thing for the larger organization. Conflict is probably not a good thing. It all comes down to how the leaders handle the situation.

There is of course good competition between teams. But, where it gets bad is when the competition becomes destructive--either in the relationships between the teams or in the overall outcome. Competition on teams can also be a good thing and help people strive for excellence--but again, leaders must be careful to encourage healthy competition.

So as a leader--how do we play together nicely in the sand box while encouraging competition?

Most important, ensure that the nothing gets personal. No personal attacks on people. Everything must be held to the inanimate object, impersonal level. Once things get personal, that is when the sand is beginning to leave the sandbox.

Keep the competition focused on the objective. It is easy to devolve into scrapping for smaller goals and nonsense items, but if the competition remains focused on the organizational goal--then everyone on the team should feel empowered to contribute. If, for instance, the competition on the team becomes focused on the presentation--then other members of the team will become disenfranchised and potentially reduce the significant contributions in their areas of expertise.

Insulate the team, as much as possible, from outside influences which will seek to distract them. Sometimes, bringing in outside influences only increases stress while not serving to improve performance. Leaders must know their team well enough to encourage them and not demotivate or unnecessarily stress them--which usually results in sub-par performance.

Leaders should also identify the external factors and people/teams which are potential trouble spots and attempt to keep them from throwing sand into the eyes of their team.

The sandbox of organization in which teams play can be very small. Leaders should protect their teams and not throw sand at other teams which will engender retribution. The ability to meet organizational goals should be the standard of success, not the broken bodies and sand-filled eyes of the competitors.

1 comment:

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