Why the competitor is irrelevant…
Ever since I have been working in the localisation industry (11 years now), I have been wondering what is going on here… You see, I ‘ve been working in different industries: the fashion industry, the software industry, communication, trading, etc, etc (Yes I am a curious person, so I walked around in many different professional sectors). Everywhere I worked there was some sort of fear for ‘the competitor(s)’…
I grew up in a family where we liked to play games. Well… we liked? There were different personalities in our family: One person didn’t want to loose. EVER! Another didn’t like to fight. One was clever and found out trics to make the impossible possible, and so on. I was the one that could help the other party make a smart move. They thought I was stupid! Why would I do that? Didn’t I want to win? Perhaps winning for me was a different concept. And yet: I won a lot in my childhood: if there was a contest: drawing, dancing, gymnastics, painting: I regularly won. I just didn’t have to be nasty to win.
What makes you really succeed? What makes you win?
Back to the start of this article: later, when I worked in the localisation industry, I recognized two groups with different views. There was, for example, someone who asked me to shut my Linked In profile to make sure that the competition wouldn’t see my contacts. Another person said to me: “You go to conferences where all your competitors are, how do you protect your knowledge?” Again another one aksed: “What do we need to show and share, mandatory, and what can we keep for ourselves?”, meaning: the more we didn’t share: the better. Or even worse: “We don’t have to say what is really going on, we can make the story a bit more positive than reality is”. Another one didn’t put pictures and names of the team on the website, because the competitor could steal the staff!. That was the first group.
Protectionism is not based on the will to win, but rather on an inability to suffer a loss.
Then there was the second group, an extraordinary group in business I must say: they share with each other, learn from each other, say what it is. They protect only what is under NDA, but don’t have to protect their own strategies. They seek human interaction, are open in their communication. They solve problems even before they appear, because they have already listened to what the other party needed and wanted in the first place. Because they don’t protect the ‘wrong things’ they gain trust and grow.
If I may illustrate my message: I’d like to share 2 interviews with you with two women that practice(d) sports on high national level. Just to take a look at the phenomenon of being good in a competitive environment. I though: being successful in sports is comparable with being successful in business. We need to do the exact same thing. Please find below my interview with Indre Leleviciene (interim general manager of AIRV):
What kind of sports did you practice?
I was playing basketball for 13 years. When I was in school, I played for the first town team, I was a captain of the team. Then I was invited to the National Team camp, and the coaches wanted me to move to the capital city and live in sports school, but I was 15 then and my mother didn’t let me.
What was your approach, did you have to sacrifice something?
I came into basketball, because my brother was already well-known basketball player in the town and, of course, because of my height:) my coach was trying to convince my parents to let me practice basketball for 2 years, until they gave up.
The biggest sacrifice was that I was always against my mother’s will, she never wanted me to play basketball, so she never saw any of my games. I was playing the violin, and one year I was trying to do both, music school (violin lessons) and basketball (not speaking about the academic side, when you have to attend school as well). So after a year, when I was around 12-13 yrs old, I simply gave up on violin lessons, and my mother always thought that basketball isn’t a sport for a girl. When my friends were going to disco, I was sweating on the pitch, when my friends were putting make up and getting ready, I was dressed in sportswear:) but I was never ever sorry for this choice.
Why weren’t you never sorry?
This sport tought me a lot: how to work in a team, how to finish what you have started. That other 4 players on a pitch rely on you and your efforts.
Where was your focus?
I can’t say that I focused much on myself alone, nor on the competition, I simply loved being on a pitch. Of course, as a child, I didn’t like to do some exercises and sometimes was cheating, but even this experience is very useful. For instance, you can cheat and not do some exercises, but then you are playing the game and you know what to do, only technically you are too weak… Then you would let the team down and influence the outcome…
You wanted to win?
Yes, I always wanted to win and always played till the last second. I never “saved” myself. For instance, my eyelid was teared when a player from the team was trying to snag a ball from me, and she accidently put her finger in my eye. This happened on Saturday and on Wednesday I was on a pitch again, because I couldn’t let my team and coach down. So I could say I was most focused on team’s interests.
The second interview is with Romy van Schaik (student), at National (junior) Level in figure skating. (Romy is on the left on this picture).
Do you sacrifice something for being at this level in sports?
Yes, I do. I miss birthday parties of my friends or hanging out with friends in general. It’s hard to find the time for it.
How do you achieve your best results?
By training, not only on the ice (although I train on the ice a lot as well), but also training my condition outside of the skating rink. Actually I am more or less always occupied by my overall and optimal condition. When I need to perform I must be able to do so.
What’s your main focus?
If I would look at the performance of my ‘competitors’ I would become scared of not being able to reach the same level. That would be a recipe of failure. So I focus on what I can do, on how I can exceed my own limits and become better and better in what I do. This is the way I can win.
Practicing a sport doesn’t differ so much from being in business: Focus on the competitor weakens you. Focus on increasing your own skills strengthens you.
Go for it! How? That’s a matter of choice! A choice between fear and achieving what you aim for.