The language of winning – are we taught to collaborate?

In business (and life) people talk about ‘winning’. Some even use #win on social media and I have too – usually tongue in cheek. But what does winning mean?

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

I was listening to a podcast interview recently with Olympic-medal winning rower and diplomat Cath Bishop (link to podcast at the bottom).

She talked about how a change in mindset helped her to achieve more and that change was focusing on the process rather than the end goal which was winning.

Her approach isn’t unusual, I’ve heard other successful sportspeople say they take the same approach.

Winning no doubt gives you a high but it is short-lived and if that is your sole focus then it can be deflating and misses out on a much more enriching experience.

The value in the process

Seeing the value in the process gives you something more sustainable and rewarding than focusing simply on winning or losing. It’s a series of smaller victories: What you learn along the way, how you develop and improve.

If you focus on enjoying the process then success – the win – is the cherry on the cake. And as Cath Bishop found, it ultimately led to far more wins.

It’s the equivalent of enjoying the journey, not just the destination. Or in business really loving what you do and enjoying getting better at it. The results are a happy bi-product.

Language of winning not productive

Having learned that she argued that the language of winning and the way we are taught about winning and losing isn’t necessarily productive. In school we are encouraged to be top of the class, to get the best mark.

Success is at the expense of others. You are a winner or a loser. And it can be the same in the workplace. People are singled out for success for the result for doing better than everyone else.

Does this make us good team players? Does it foster collaboration? The latter is a term that is used a lot in relation to teams and business.

Offices are designed to ‘foster collaboration’ but do business structures support it? Are the rewards focused on wins? Are we conditioned to see winning and losing as black and white, you are one or the other without anything in between?

Take journalism. The win is to get the biggest story, have your name on the top story or the front-page lead.

Fleeting victory

There is only one top spot but the victory in securing it is only fleeting. Another story comes along and replaces it and you have to start over again. A bit like an athlete, you have to keep winning.

Is everything that isn’t the top story a failure?

The collective knowledge, expertise and contacts of the newsroom is a powerful force that continuously grows. Is that positive force overshadowed by the competitiveness of the individual?

How is team effort, the collaboration and process of putting together a story supported, fostered, recognised and rewarded?

I was interviewing someone recently and they spoke about how various contractors on a project were brought together under one umbrella which allowed them to collaborate more easily.

They were able to work together focused on the collected process rather than what each was doing invidually. It delivered even better results.

Is how we define success and winning, hampering collaboration? What do you think?

Listen to Cath Bishop’s interview: Don’t Tell Me The Score podcast interview with Cath Bishop.

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