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Last Updated on January 30, 2018

Are You Making The Rules Or Playing By The Rules?

Are You Making The Rules Or Playing By The Rules?

Do you thrive in the face of competition or try to stay under the radar? Does competition motivate you to stand out from the crowd, or does it frighten and intimidate you?

Competition has never been more intense than ever for this fast-paced generation. People are getting smarter and finding ways to work more efficiently. You have to stand out to be successful, and that requires a consistent drive for improvement. Stagnation gets you nowhere, and if you remain passive and submissive, opportunity will pass you by.

Whether or not you like it, competition isn’t going anywhere. With the state of the workplace today, is it time for all of us to suck it up and embrace our competitive side? If so, just how competitive do you have to be to get ahead?

The battle between the hawk and the diplomat

Leadership philosophies vary. Some people feel that it is better to be diplomatic at work. Others find that you have to be aggressive to get ahead.

We’ve all had that colleague who seems to enjoy going with the flow. The person had stable employment, but they never advanced. They seem satisfied with their work even though they aren’t climbing the ladder to leadership. These are the employees that you see happily working at the same company, in the same role for 20 years.

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On the other hand, there are the fiercely driven individuals who are willing to take on challenges to be successful. They are the people trying to prove themselves so that they can advance their rank and max out their salary over the course of their career.

The difference between these two types of people is their competitive spirit

Whether a person is passive or outspoken, they make a conscious choice to be one or the other. Many factors, such as personality type and upbringing, play a role in how they see the world. Type A personalities make waves, while Type B personalities are more likely to go with the flow.[1]

Some of us are naturally soft spoken and gentle. People with this personality tend to be peace makers. They avoid conflict, and they avoid drawing attention to themselves. Others among us are extroverts who feel energised in social settings. They like to stand out from the crowd, and they’re highly competitive.

Family upbringing plays a role in how you perceive competition as well. Some parents push their children to achieve at a young age. They teach kids that to get ahead, you have to take risks, be competitive, dream big, and be the best at what you do.

Other families don’t stress competition. They teach children to play it safe. People with this ‘timid’ personality avoid risk taking. They don’t feel the urge to achieve recognition or get the promotion. As long as there’s food on the table and a roof over their heads, they’re happy.

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It’s possible to be too passive or too competitive

Being Mr. Nice Guy isn’t always good for you

If you’re too passive, you’re going to get steamrolled by someone with a higher competitive drive. Others may mistake your kindness for weakness, and they may not show you the respect you deserve.

The meek among us have to worry about the constant threat of others’ perceptions. People may mistake your willingness to go with the flow as proof of spinelessness. Even family members and friends may see your peace-making ways as evidence of lack of a backbone.

Of course you can still get by, but it’ll be hard to get far and feel fulfilled. When you bend to the will of others, you won’t reach your full potential. You’ll be too busy trying to please others. The bottom line is that you’ll miss out on big opportunities while you’re living in someone else’s shadow.

Fierce competitors beware

Being competitive has its own set of challenges. You can seem ruthless at times, and you may unintentionally harm the people you love. You may resort to unethical practices so that you can get what you want, regardless of what everyone else wants or needs.

Competitive types tend to be workaholics. They place a lot of stress on themselves, which can damage their health, family, and social life. If you’re too driven, you run the risk of becoming so focused on tasks that you forget the big picture. You can seem aggressive, pushy, and cruel to others.

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Finding a happy medium

Somewhere between being too passive and too competitive, is a healthy balance. You might expect us to tell you that the balance is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, but we’re actually recommending that you aim to have more competitiveness than passivity.

It’s impossible to completely avoid having competitive feelings, so you may as well learn to turn them into a healthy competitive spirit.[2] When you pick a challenge you’d like to overcome or choose a person that you’d like to beat in a competition, it gives you direction and motivation. This drive will push you outside of your comfort zone and give you incentive to improve yourself.

Competitive people constantly have to read, research, and forge meaningful connections with people in order to gain new insights on work. As a person with a healthy competitive drive, you’ll always try to expand your knowledge and improve.

Nobody makes memories by avoiding new situations. Being competitive means that you’ll get the chance to grab life by the horns. You’ll self-reflect on what you’d like to accomplish, and later in your life, you’ll have great stories to share.

Being competitive is great for your team too

As long as you have a healthy amount of competition in the workplace, you and your colleagues will be able to push one another to be better. If you compete with the intention of helping one another rise, you’ll all win.

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Being competitive as an organization also builds trust. Think about the way that sports teams practice. They compete against one another to improve their skills. The cohesiveness that they develop enables them to face opposing teams successfully. A team won’t flourish if they’re too cautious and guarded to engage in healthy competition.

When opportunity knocks, answer the door

Going with the flow can help you navigate tough situations, but if you’re too passive, you’ll miss out on opportunities to shine. Having a competitive mindset isn’t about picking a fight with everybody. It’s about figuring out how and when you should fight.

Being a peacemaker doesn’t always make you a good person. Sometimes, not speaking up is the worst thing you can do. There’s nothing to gain by hiding your light under a bushel.

We humans are meant to be competitive. We have a survival instinct that drives us to seek the best means for carrying out our basic needs. It’s natural for us to fight–we just engage differently these days.

How you can spur healthy competition

  • Keep it fun. Sometimes a little light-hearted competition helps people stay motivated. Incorporate games or other fun activities into your workplace when possible.
  • Teach people how to compete in a healthy way. Learning to respectfully disagree, push back, and give constructive criticism are valuable skills for anyone who works on a team.[3] If you want someone to know how to compete, you may have to show them how to do it first.
  • Let people take responsibility for their work. A worker who isn’t invested in their projects won’t perform well. You and your team need to take ownership for your work and have a stake in the company. Give employees a voice, and they’ll be more motivated.[4]
  • Encourage a feedback loop. If the culture in your workplace is geared around constant improvement, then people will be more willing to take risks and innovate. If it’s normal for everyone to give and receive constructive feedback, you can create a productive work environment.[5]

Set out to find your personal best

A healthy amount of competition motivates you to achieve new heights. When you engage in competition often, you learn that winning and losing don’t have to be high-stakes activities. You understand that sometimes you’ll be better than others, and sometimes people will be better than you.

Ultimately, as you continue to compete, solicit feedback, and improve, you’ll stop looking for external motivation and focus inward. You’ll realize that you’re competing with yourself first and foremost.[6]

Give yourself permission to make the rules instead of just follow them. Engage in a little bit of friendly competition, and never stop working to improve yourself.

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 14, 2018

Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

Do you find yourself constantly feeling busy? Or, maybe you feel like you have too much on your plate? Perhaps you have a to-do list with no end in sight, or many responsibilities to juggle on a daily basis at work. When you get home, you have household responsibilities to take care of, too, and it just seems like you never have much time for a breather.

Being busy is good, it’s better than not having anything to do and letting time slip away. But, what many people don’t realize is, being busy doesn’t always mean you’re being productive. The more time you take to complete something does not equal to more success. Many people end up falling into this trap as they pack their day with tasks and errands that may sometimes produce little outcome or output for the effort that they’ve put in.

For example, let’s say that your washing machine at home broke down and you need to fix it. Instead of calling the handyman to come, your husband decides he’s going to fix the machine. He ends up spending half a day figuring out the machine, and does eventually fix it. He did however have to make a trip to the tool shop to buy some extra tools and parts for the machine. Now, if you had called the handy man, it would probably have taken the handyman much less time, and he would have all the necessary tools and parts already, because that is his job. So in this instance, was your husband’s time and effort worth it? Oh, and because he took half the day fixing the machine, you now had to take over his duties of dropping the kids off at soccer and swim practice.

We Need Not Be That Busy

I hope you would agree, that it would have been ideal to delegate this task to the handyman. That would have saved you time and effort, so that you and your husband could focus on doing other things that were more important to you, like being there for your kids or spending time with each other. This is just one example of how we often impose busyness on ourselves without us even realizing it.

But, I’m going to show you just how you can gain quality time from external sources. Whatever big goals or ambitions that you may have, it’s normal for them to involve a lot more of your time than you first expect. I’m talking about things like starting a new business, changing careers, perhaps even moving to a new city. New challenges often involve things that are outside of our experience and expertise, so covering all the bases ourselves is sometimes not feasible as it takes too much time to learn and do everything.

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You Are Just One Person

At the end of the day, you are just one person, and you have a limited amount of time. So, you have to do things that are meaningful to you. While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones needed to get there may be meaningful. Because we all have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, not every task will be enjoyable or all fun & games. Some simply require pure willpower and discipline to grind through. And that is where delegation comes in.

What is Delegation?

You may hear this term a lot in the business or corporate world; it’s an effective way for managers to distribute (or sometimes avoid!) work. But, that’s not what I’m referring to. Instead, delegation means leveraging time from an outside source to give you opportunities to increase your quality time. By outside source, we simply mean that it’s not your own time that you’re spending.

What Should You Delegate?

To delegate effectively, it has to be done with deliberate intention. So the aim of delegation is to create more quality time for yourself. There are 3 types of tasks that you should generally delegate, called the Delegation Triangle.

The first are tasks you don’t enjoy doing. These are things that you know how to do, but don’t enjoy. Second, are tasks you shouldn’t do. These are things you know how to do and may even enjoy, but may not be the best use of your time. Third, are tasks you can’t do. These are things that need doing, but you don’t have the skills or expertise to follow through with them at this moment.

Have a look through your daily tasks and responsibilities, and see if you can fit them under these 3 categories.

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Pitfalls of Delegation

Using the Delegation Triangle, you can decide which tasks are worth delegating. In theory, it might look easy to sort actions at first glance; but often, it’s actually harder than you think! 

One such example, is diverting time on tasks you shouldn’t do. Let’s go back to the washing machine example. Your husband decides to fix it on his own instead of simply getting an expert to fix it. Why? Because it’s probably a challenge he enjoys, and it’s an accomplishment that would bring him satisfaction. However, if the value of the task is too low, you really ought to delegate it to others.

Sometimes, when you have a larger goal in mind, you might have to sacrifice some actions in return for making progress. Always think about the bigger picture! One thing that can help you avoid this pitfall is to keep your deadlines in mind whenever you set milestones for a project or task.

Deadlines are a commitment to yourself, and every bit of time is precious. So if an activity you’re focusing on is taking time away from progress towards your goal, it may be time to let go of it for now. You can always decide to pick it up again later.

Then there’s the other extreme of delegation. And that’s when you start delegating everything you dislike doing to external sources.Sometimes it’s tempting to abuse delegation and get carried away outsourcing everything on your “don’t like doing” list.

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Some people are too picky on what they’re going to do. But sometimes, if you don’t like doing so but you’re the only one who can do it, you still need to finish the job. At the end of the day, it does take your own hard work and effort to achieve the success you want.

So if you find that you’re constantly running into this problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation, or reason for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Ask yourself, “Is this task contributing towards a meaningful objective that I want to achieve?” and “what kind of progress do I make each time I carry out the task myself?” If the task is both meaningful and creates progress, then the next step is to ask yourself questions that can help you create actions.

What obstacles are causing you to avoid this task? Is it because of low confidence in your ability? Do you think someone else can do a better job? Is it your level of focus? Or is there an alternative action you can take that can produce the same results?

Take Action Now

Take a look at your current tasks or to-do’s that you have planned this week. Which tasks are possible candidates that fall under the Delegation Triangle? Are there any that fall under the pitfalls mentioned above? Which tasks can you immediately identify that should be delegated out right now?

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I hope this exercise helps declutter your tasks and responsibilities a little and allows you to see how much more time you can be saving for more important things. But, this is not the end of delegation. After you’ve sorted out the tasks that can be delegated, the next step is to determine who it should be delegated to. Besides people like your co workers, or spouse/family members, did you know that there is a whole delegating industry out there?

If you’re keen to learn more about this delegating industry, and find out how you can decide who’s the best fit to do your delegated tasks, subscribe to our newsletter today. We will help you discover many more skills that will boost your productivity by leaps and bounds!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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