Start Beating Yourself Up!

The Only Person You Need To beat Is Yourself

The cries of “my mommy beats me!” could be heard throughout the student-housing complex. The mother of the shrieking three year old was hoping in vain that none of the neighbors heard. She didn’t want to get a call from child protective services. If you didn’t know what was really happening, you might be tempted to call the authorities yourself. However, on this fall morning while I was in classes at the University of Utah, my wife had taken our only child at the time shopping. Upon arriving home there was a challenge given and accepted to see who could get from the car to the apartment first. My wife, wanted to teach our child to give her best effort, so she pushed out in front as the race ensued. Then came the words famous in our family lore, “my mommy beats me!”

The spirit of competition started early in our family of seven, when we play games, you play to win. There is no whining if you lose. You give your best effort to win. Someone usually is upset in these situations. I suspect we are not unique in teaching our kids to compete. All of my children have played sports. Each coach seems to focus on winning above all else. Both my sons play on a winning volleyball team at their school. Their team has a reputation for winning. As a result, many people cheer against them. They have learned to embrace the battle of competition. We all have. We learn that we have to compete to get in the best classes in high school. We learn we have to compete to be accepted to the best universities and to earn scholarships. We learn we have to compete to get the best jobs. We learn we have to compete against the competition in business.

I had been raised with this competitive mindset. In my career, I wanted to excel and be the leader. In sales, I wanted to be the best and highest producer. I would even get upset if others “beat me.” I would congratulate my competitor and seem happy for them, but inside, I was not happy. Because of my competitive nature, I found myself upset at losing. I would often compare myself to others. If I learned from their success, this could be positive. However, often, I would compare myself to others in an unhealthy way. My focus on beating them actually caused me to have less success. It would seem that the harder I pushed, the harder it was to succeed.

I know I am not the only one to have had these feelings. Just yesterday, I was having a discussion with a competitor of mine. He was telling me how one of his business partners had a plan to go after one of the biggest competitors in our industry. He wanted to undercut their pricing and steal all their customers. His motivation was to beat his opponent. This zero-sum (win/lose) mentality drains our energy, creativity and happiness. It is a poor long-term strategy in business. I have worked hard to overcome my zero-sum mentality. It is difficult when so much of our culture is focused on winning at someone else’s expense. The pull to win can be so strong that some are willing to cheat or do unethical things to win. It is not uncommon for kids to cheat in school or college because they are more focused on getting the best grade instead of increasing their own knowledge.

We are just wrapping up March Madness in the United States. We now have 4 college basketball teams who have defeated 60 other teams. Only one will be the champion. If you do not support one of those four schools, you may find yourself unmotivated to watch, you may even be cheering for a team to lose. I find myself often cheering for the underdog.

What I am learning, is that in business, there is room for more than one champion. In my business, I truly have a tremendous amount of competition. There are ten’s of thousands of coaches and business consultants in the world. When I was asked how I compared to my competitors, I used to outline all the ways we differed. I focused on what they did and what we do. Some of my competitors are really talented and effective. Focusing on why we are better doesn’t create loyal high paying customers. It seems to create more people who want to prove they are better than you. Simon Sinek argues that people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. (Start With Why)

Today, I don’t mind talking about the strengths of my competitors. When I am asked about the differences. I focus on our purpose and our strengths. I no longer choose to compete against others or compare myself to them. Instead, I am competing with myself to constantly UP my skills and talents. In other words, I beat myself…UP. When people ask why they should hire us, I answer: We will do our absolute best to elevate and lift your team to be more effective. We will constantly strive to improve how we serve and support you.

Since making this shift, my confidence has increased. People are more willing to support us and help in our mission. I am more satisfied and happy in my work. I am focused on lifting, inspiring an elevating others instead of beating them. The only person I have to beat is myself.

The author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Other articles you may be interested in: Elevate Your Impact; Cure For The CEO DiseaseHow To Create Success From FailureIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Improve Your Leadership Under Pressure; One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence.

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, good things are about to happen. Pain is a prerequisite to cultural change, getting healthy, or improving almost any result. Last week I was in Colorado Springs for the annual PDP Global conference. Three years ago at my first conference, I wanted to see the local sights and go for a hike. My associates referred me to the Manitou Incline, the “Holy Grail” of cardio experiences. The hike is one mile straight up the mountain. You will experience almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain. At 6’7” and 282 pounds, this was a tough trail. Last year I hiked the incline and it was painful. I decided to change and get in shape. The pain caused me to lose twelve pounds and improve my stamina. I improved my time to the top this year by 15 minutes and I felt much better. Just 18 more pounds to go.

I regularly talk to business executives who seek relief from challenges and pain they are experiencing including reduced profit, financial losses, high turnover, weak succession and bench strength, or missed goals and opportunities. They want our help with an employee, a boss, a team or an entire company. When they ask for help, I want to know if they are serious about change. Organizational change must be supported and lead from the top to succeed. If the pain is not great enough, there is often little incentive to change.Manitou Incline 7-15-16

Throughout a company, there may be various levels of pain. One organization I recently met with has been having problems for years. The senior partners have been ignoring the problems and doing business as usual until recently. They are losing some of their best talent to the competition. The behavior of some the senior executives is causing new recruits to leave. The pain of departing recruits is magnified when they persuade other potential recruits they will be unhappy if they work here. Worse, they talk to current employees and entice them to leave. The problems where originally ignored as senior executives justified their behavior by convincing themselves the problems belonged to those who left.

The next levels of shareholders are clear about the problems and have been sounding the alarms for as many years. Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears until now. The pain is finally great enough for changes to begin. These senior executives have to support any change initiatives. Half measures will only prolong the pain and misery. When top leadership sit in their ivory towers and refuse to listen they allow pain to persist with their teams. Some shortsighted executives only change when they can no longer be insulated from pain.

Avoid or reduce organizational pain:

Listen to your team: They are your “canary in a coal mine.”

Take time to actively seek feedback from your direct reports.

Conduct regular employee and customer feedback surveys.

Develop a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo and strives for more.

Seek outside perspectives from industry experts, books, curricula, competitors, consultants, board members, etc.

Pain is healthy. It let’s us know something is wrong which can lead to necessary changes. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or do you need to be sick and tired a little longer?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Read related topics: Cure For The CEO Disease; The Power Of Accountability; When Being Too Smart Hurts You; Disengagement And The Love What You Do Myth; How To Defeat The Fog Of War In Business

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