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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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Published on July 10, 2018

19 Ways to Use Creative Thinking in the Workplace to Up Your Credibility

19 Ways to Use Creative Thinking in the Workplace to Up Your Credibility

Our world is changing at faster pace than ever. In order to keep up, we are continually adapting to new technology and the changing industries.

Employers are looking for employees who can solve problems, think creatively and be a leader in every situation.

These 19 tips will help you find ways to develop creative thinking and to use it to gain credibility as a leader in the workplace:

1. Set limitations

In order to increase your own creative thinking, it helps to set limits for yourself, so you have to think outside the box to come up with solutions.

Set deadlines, budgets or any other type of limitation to increase your creative problem solving. This will build your credibility as a creative problem solver as you come up with innovative solutions.

2. Change things up

If you find yourself falling into a rut and doing the same thing every single day, then you will likely struggle to come up with new ideas. This is why it is important to change things up in your routine and break out of your rut.

Get your creative juices flowing by exercising at a different time, or trying something new for lunch. Move your desk to a different position or change your personal workspace.

Any of these changes will help spark your mind and get the new ideas pumping again.

3. Listen and care about others

When you show that you care about others and listen to their ideas and thoughts, they will trust you more.

“Leaders who listen are able to create trustworthy relationships that are transparent and breed loyalty. You know the leaders who have their employees’ best interests at heart because they truly listen to them.” — Glenn Llopis

Listening to your coworkers allows them to be more open with you and feel that they can take risks and be creative.

Discussing ideas with your coworkers will not only increase your own creative thinking, but also set the environment for a more creative office.

4. Find good mentors/critics

If you want your creative work to improve, then you need to find a good mentor or critic who can give you positive feedback and help you to keep moving forward.

As your work improves over time because of your dedication and your mentor, people will hold you in greater respect.

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Every type of creative work takes several drafts before it is ready to go. With your mentors, you can find ways to continually improve your work. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar said:[1]

“Early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I… choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them go… from suck to non-suck. We are true believers in the iterative process – reworking, reworking and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its throughline or a hollow character finds its soul.”

Use your mentor’s knowledge to bring your first drafts to life.

5. Try and fail, a lot

The best way to get better at things is to keep trying and failing until you improve. This increases your creative thinking and shows your coworkers that you don’t give up easily and are willing to improve.

The ability to take failure and turn it around is one of the best qualities of any leader.

The Harvard Business Review reported:[2]

“Darden Professor Saras Sarasvathy has shown through her research about how expert entrepreneurs make decisions, they must make lots of mistakes to discover new approaches, opportunities, or business models. She frequently references Howard Schultz who, when he started Il Giornale in Seattle, the company that Schultz used to later buy the original Starbucks brand and assets, the store had nonstop opera music playing, menus written in Italian, and no chairs. As Schultz has often said, “We had to make a lot of mistakes” before discovering a model that worked.”

6. Be consistent (no tortured artists here)

When you think of creativity, an image of a broken-hearted artist or alcoholic writer may come to mind. Many people today associate creativity with isolation, despair, alcohol and inconsistency.

Just picture Jay Gatsby.

While that is good for drama, that’s not really how creativity works. Creativity is fostered through consistent effort. Put in the work everyday and you will find your creative muscles and credibility will grow.

As a leader in your workplace, you need to show consistency in everything you do, not just your own work, but throughout the company to build your business’s credibility.

7. Be honest to yourself and others

Acting dishonestly is one of the fastest ways for you to lose your credibility. Always be honest to the people around you and to yourself.

If your coworkers feel that they can trust you, then they rely on you more and work with you better. Honesty is what builds a solid foundation for a successful workplace.[3]

During the creative process, it is important to be honest to yourself. It’s easy to get carried away with fantastic ideas but you will need to learn to be honest with yourself about what is and is not possible.

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8. Collaborate

The best work usually comes from teamwork. Katherine W. Phillips said,[4]

“The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.”

Show your coworkers that you value their efforts and perspective. By working together, you can create new ideas and make something better than you ever have before.

Collaborating will not only improve your own creative thinking but will create a bond between you and your team.

9. Use humor

As a leader, you want your coworkers to feel comfortable to be creative and open-minded.

Humor has been proven to help people to relax and feel more willing to try something new and helps foster creativity.[5]

To improve your own credibility and help others gain confidence in their own creative thinking, use an appropriate sense of humor to lighten the mood when needed and to get those creative juices flowing.

10. Be vulnerable

This goes along with being honest with yourself and others. To be a creative thinker, then you have to be willing to fail, admit your failures and be open to receiving critique.

This can be difficult especially in a workplace where you want to show your strengths instead of weaknesses, but by admitting yo ur weaknesses and being open to others, your credibility will grow as your coworkers know that you listen and are adaptable.

Take a look at this article to find out Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength.

11. Have meaningful conversations

The best way to gain a new perspective is by talking to other people. You have had a certain amount of experiences that have shaped the way that you see the world.

Everyone around you has had different sets of experiences that have shaped their perspectives. By engaging with these people, you can learn more about their views. Try to walk in their shoes and understand their perspectives, especially if you disagree.

Steer clear of shallow small talk and discuss bigger and more meaningful topics with those around you. Ask about their experiences, their hopes, their opinions and you will gain new perspectives that will assist your creative thinking.

12. Be constantly learning new things

Some of the greatest minds in the world (Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerburg) have said they dedicate at least five hours every week to learning new things.

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They are passionate about growing their minds and learn about everything from nuclear physics to politics. As they learn about different topics, they look for ways to apply what they have learned to their own industry.

Start your own educational journey today by finding some books you would like to read or finding high-quality articles online about each topic.

Keep in mind your own industry and how you can apply what you learn to your job. You never know all the different ways astronomy can help your marketing efforts.

13. Experience it all

Steve Jobs once said that creativity comes from experience.[6] The more experiences you have, the better connections you will be able to make to find solutions.

Try to experience as many things as possible. You don’t have to go on some huge trip around the world to have more experience; simply meeting new people and trying new things will give you more experience that will build your creative skills.

14. Give yourself some love

When I was younger, I was given the advice to take the time everyday before I went out for the day to ensure I felt good about myself and fully confident. Sometimes this took the shape of wearing a new pair of shoes or writing in my journal that morning.

I was told if I could take the time to prepare myself for the day, then I could focus all of my energy on the people around me. This is something that great leaders do today.

Take the time to rest and prepare for the next day, so you can throw yourself into your creative work and help those around you.

Self-care can be whatever it is that you need: a hot bath, going to the gym, walking your dog, reading, the list goes on and on. Figure out what energizes you, and do it as often as needed.

15. Take ownership

Accountability fosters your creative thinking because you know that others will see your work and know whether you did it well or not.

Creativity works best under some pressure, so take your projects seriously by taking responsibility for them.

Your coworkers will have greater respect for you as you take ownership for your work projects, even if you are disappointed in the results.

16. Be reflective

Hindsight is 20-20, so by looking back at past successes and failures, you can get new ideas for your work.

Reflecting is a part of the creative process and will help you as you continue to create and work. Learning from the past sets an example for your coworkers and will improve your credibility among your colleagues.[7]

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“Creativity requires us to be confident in our areas of practice, whatever they may be. And reflection is an indispensable part of observing, developing, digesting and being in dialogue with our creative ’self’.”

17. Communicate

Communication is key to any good relationship and this includes the relationships between you and your coworkers.

Notice how your coworkers handle critique and find the best way to give them constructive criticism. Notice how your coworkers handle conflict, and find a positive way to help each of them through it.[8]

“Effective communication is one of the key prerequisites for a thriving workplace. It drives fast, clear and precise flow of information between individuals and groups. A lack of proper communication can greatly decrease productivity.”

Communication is a skill that is vastly underestimated and incredibly useful in the workplace. As you develop this skill, you can become an impressive creative leader.

18. Meet deadlines

We have all experienced those coworkers who can’t meet a deadline with their projects. It can be frustrating and throw off everyone else’s work.

To be a credible leader, don’t be that person.

I’ve already mentioned that creativity works best with a little bit of pressure. Use your creative thinking to finish your projects on time, so you can meet your deadlines.

Your coworkers will know that they can count on you to get the job done on time, which will likely lead to you getting more projects.

19. Respect others

No matter how brilliant you are, if you don’t show respect for the people around you, your credibility in your workplace will suffer.

The opposite is true as well, if you show respect to each of your coworkers, your credibility as a leader will grow.

Michigan Ross Professor Jane Dutton who has conducted research on the impact that mutual respect has on creativity said:[9]

“Across our studies, we demonstrate that respectful engagement is more than simply a nice way to interact, but is a catalyst and cultivator of creativity.”

By creating a friendly workplace, not only your creative thinking will improve but also everyone around you. With a work environment of mutual respect, ideas can develop into something incredible.

Creative thinking and leadership abilities are some of the top skills that employers are looking for. Start applying these 19 tips to your work, and you will see great results in your own work and with your coworkers’ work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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