How To Use Competition for Enhancing Performance Management

by | Jul 12, 2016

exec_coach_blog_2015_11_03Recently, I was engaged in a discussion about how to use Competition for enhancing performance management in the workplace. An organization had just hired a hotshot sales rep and was eager to find out how the rest of his team would react to the added completion. He was hoping that the presence of this go-getter would motivate the rest of his sales force to kick up a notch.

As you know, competition is an essential part of business development. Superstars such as Apple, Google, and 3M work tirelessly to distinguish themselves from others in their field. Without competition innovation would stagnate.

Question is, is competition within an organization just as powerful and innovating?

I believe that healthy competition within a workplace can bring about many positive outcomes. When effectively and conscientiously designed, internal competitiveness can spur personnel development, encourage team work, and provide an atmosphere with a fun, competitive spirit.

However, too much competition can be detrimental. Most employees don’t enjoy being constantly pitted against one another. If competition is handled incorrectly, you could easily foster an environment of stress, backstabbing and low morale.

In fact, according to a study conducted at Washington University in St. Louis, women who are forced to go head to head in a highly competitive environment experience less creativity.

The study suggests that women contribute less and less to the team’s creative output when the competition is cutthroat. Men on the other hand, become more creative when the competition heats up.

So what do you do? And how can you keep both genders happy?

  1. You create cooperative competition. You create an environment where teams can work together and push the productivity and creativity of one another.
  2. You develop clear goals and expectations. People need to know the rules of the game and what they’re trying to accomplish. At the beginning of the contest, when a leader “explains the concept to their teams with clarity, they are able to answer the question, “Why should I participate?”
  3. Celebrate team victories: Let the entire team enjoy success, not only those who closed the sale or brought in the largest deal.
  4. Limit contests to no longer than three months. Shorter time frames keep teams focused and engaged; plus allows you to revamp goals when necessary.
  5. Embrace “win-win” prizes. Winners want to be acknowledged for their work. The trick is to do so in a way that includes the losing teams. One way of accomplishing this is to establish the prize in a manner that includes the “losers” (e.g., the losing team prepares a dinner or barbeque for the winners) where everyone is brought together and joins in the fun. The winners are served and the other team still gets to eat. In one sense, this is a win-win situation because, at the end of the day, everyone is able to discuss the journey and talk about what got them there. This approach fosters continued goodwill and develops future teamwork rather than creating an “us” versus “them” mindset.

When strategized correctly, healthy competition can be used as a performance management tool to stimulate creativity, align teams, and boost productivity.

Follow these best practices and you will ensure that your organization builds a positive team culture with a fun, competitive spirit that can move your business forward.

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