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Collaboration is the ‘New’ Competition!

September 29, 2014

In the early stages of my career, I was taught that success was all about the ability to compete. I needed to be the best and constantly keep an eye on the competition. As my career (and I) matured, I began to see things differently.

When I started working at General Motors mid-career, I was shocked to see the President and head engineer go on ‘Drive arounds.’ This is an event where all of the Presidents and lead engineers from the top automotive manufacturers come together, bringing one of their own company’s cars for each team to drive and inspect. At first this concept seemed completely foreign to me. But then after some thought, I realized this inspection was something that was going to be done anyway – either in front of the executives or back at the shops. And if these leaders can share some learning, it will help consumers and strengthen the industry.  Of course, not all trade secrets were given away. But in today’s era of information accessibility, it wouldn’t take long for someone to figure it out anyway. Collaboration? Competition? What is best?

When I am working with my Executive Coaching clients on the topic of collaboration and competition, we look at what feels best for them in each situation. Unless it is sharing confidential information with the competition, usually what feels best is helping others and allowing others to help you.  This can be a foreign concept for those who were trained, like I was, to distance yourself from the competitor. But I learned that a highly competitive way of thinking often leads to fear and a struggle for control, which burns up precious energy. Energy you could be using to  focus on doing your best versus trying to beat out the competition. Your mindset here completely impacts the way you work. Worrying about the competition leads to stress and worry; whereas focusing on your own skills and work, while remaining open and collaborating with others is an empowering experience for everyone.

My advice: when you are asked for help or you see the opportunity to help another, go for it. I am a strong believer in what goes around, comes around. I think the simple gesture of authentically being nice and connecting with others is sometimes forgotten in this busy world filled with our own to-dos.  But the interesting thing that happens is when you begin to collaborate more with others, great things blossom. And I don’t even find that it always comes from the same source you gave it. Sometimes it is someone else helping you out. But it seems like there may be a karma system that is alive and well in the leadership world. My intent is not to get all philosophical with this article. But, I have definitely seen that when people are open to helping others and collaborating for the good of the overall project, not based on their own personal needs, amazing things happen to support you. Plus, work and life seems more enjoyable and fulfilling when you work with others.

A quote that reminds me of the importance of collaboration is, “It’s hard to shake hands with a clenched fist” by Indira Gandhi. Open yourself up to truly collaborating with others. Take the time to connect. Share your knowledge. Be kind. Those simple leadership lessons will take you far in your role…and in your life.

Find out more about Potential Unlimited’s Executive Coaching Program!

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