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Are you overcompetitive? It’s possible to have too much of a good thing!

Updated: May 9, 2023


‘I don’t know, Grandad’. This answer surprised me. I had just asked my 11 year-old grandson where his Peewee hockey team stood in his local league. Like many Canadian boys and girls, my grandson loves hockey and plays as often as he can. He also has a great grin on his face when his team wins, especially if he has scored, or if he has assisted one of his team mates to score. A day or two later, my daughter told me his team had been in first or second place for most of the season and was currently number one. So, why was my grandson not overly concerned about his team’s placing?


This got me thinking about the leadership coaching I and my associates do with our clients and the research behind the Human Synergistics® (HS) profiles we use in our programs. Our work in coaching frequently backs up the HS’ leadership research: even top-performing athletes have to be careful about overusing a focus on simply competing and winning.


Over my career, I’ve coached several Olympic-level athletes. The paradoxical trait they show is that, although they certainly think competition and winning is important, their major focus is almost always on pushing themselves to be excellent in all aspects of their sport. As leadership coaches, we have two leadership styles we spend a lot of time working on, the Competitive style and the Achievement style. An athlete, or a leader, who focuses on the Achievement style believes it is important to do the best possible with the resources available, to learn from her or his mistakes and to plan activities to achieve excellence (not necessarily perfection). This style is almost always one of the two or three top-scoring leadership styles in a high-performer. The Competitive style, however, can get in the way if it is overused, even for an athlete.


This makes sense when you look at winning as the frequent logical outcome of focusing on doing your best, rather than focusing on just ‘wanting to win’. We even find that people whose main focus is simply to be, or to look like a winner, often end up losing a lot and they may even use unethical behaviors to look good, or to look like a winner. To consistently win, you have to focus on doing your best, and, if you lead teams of people, get them to focus on doing their best and not just on being number one.


Another example from the business world is that of the most successful sales people. They also use more of the Achievement style than the Competitive style. Their results come from being very organized and making a high-quality effort to understand and deliver their customers’ needs. The simple desire to just get the sale, while important, is not the main factor in their success.


So, back to my grandson. His coaches encourage a lot of high-quality practice sessions

and they frequently get the team together to analyze recent games and see how they can do better. They discourage the players from being too preoccupied with their place in the league and strongly encourage them to focus strongly on doing their very best at all times.


The result? They win a lot.



Want to know more about our leadership programs and profiles?

· Individual Leadership (360° profiles, training, coaching)

· Team leadership (Survival simulations, case studies, etc.)

· Organizational leadership (culture surveys, engagement surveys, satisfaction surveys, etc.)

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Tel : 514-485-4900





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