We’ve all heard the stories – workplaces so cutthroat that people wouldn’t even give their colleague the time of day. Places that make the “Game of Thrones” seem like child’s play.
And you have probably been watching the Olympics recently. Where years of hard work can all go for naught in a millisecond. Where losing by a nose is broadcast for hundreds of millions to see. Where your “teammates” can be your main competition.
This started me thinking about my workplace environment and creating a positive work atmosphere; especially for sales and other specialties where your production determines your pay. So here are a few things I’ve learned (and implemented) over the years to balance collaboration and competition in a sales culture.
- Celebrate success. It creates an atmosphere of recognition (it’s a team-building activity). At my company, every time we close a deal we literally ring a bell. And everyone stops to cheer. Corny, but it works. It gives each employee that moment when the entire company is recognizing their work, commending them, and cheering for them. And it means a lot when it comes from senior management – as well as your colleagues. My staff looks forward to ringing that bell!
- What goes around comes around. We believe in this concept and promote it all the time. Don’t worry about the immediate payback, but look toward the future. If everyone shares that philosophy and I’m constantly reinforcing it, then we can all be successful. I have made a conscious effort to cut out the cutthroat competition – and sales have increased 33 percent over the past year and a half.
- Running a flat organization encourages transparency. And the sharing of information. Having less secrets cuts down on the inevitable office gossip – and that in and of itself helps us feel like a team.
- Friendly competition. Of course we have competition; we are humans after all. But we can make it a friendly competition and we can channel it in positive ways. Right now we’re running a summer sales competition using an Olympics team (sorry to say our Team USA isn’t winning). But giving an outlet for that competitive spirit, a place for a little trash-talking, goes a long way.
- Having an open door policy. I run a relatively flat organization where everyone has access to the CEO and senior management. Have an idea? Drop by and share it. And you don’t need a 10-page presentation or PowerPoint – you can pop in for a schmooze; share those brainstorms with me. Your idea can be the one that makes us an even better company.
- Dial down the intense competition. I used to work in a large company where things just never got better; the rate of change was zero. If you came up with an idea, it was very hard for management to share control with you (they had to call the shots). One of my favorite movies is “Jerry Maguire.” When I started at the company it was like that line in the movie, “Who’s coming with me?” So when I started this company I wanted to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and at the same time give people the ability to manage from within. That encourages buy-in by everyone in the organization – and helps dial down the competition.
- A little fun and a little humor go a long way. Next week we’re taking our annual company “playday” on the beach and closing the office so we can all just hang out together. We’ve done many days like this over the years from a trip to the Caribbean to an evening at Dave & Buster’s. Or a staff vs. interns volleyball game. Or seeing “The Social Network” together. And we use a lot of humor around here: every week we get the same reminder memo about a weekly meeting. It could be a boring one-line memo. But not us. Each week it has a different theme that makes us chuckle. Recent examples include if Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were working here, a little Mets/Yankees humor, and, of course, why watching the Olympics is relevant for our work!
In a business environment that can usually be cutthroat, stressful, and manipulative, you can foster team support as well as individual success. Just ask Gabby Douglas and the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Or, better yet, ask Jordyn Wieber.