Leading On Management: Competition Kicks Apathy’s A$$

The stench of apathy permeated our department. I had been there for about a month and had watched as my team floundered on figuring out what needed to be done and how they were going to get it done. We had metrics that we were judged by but, admittedly, there was a whole pointlessness to doing them (as they were always in flux) and no reward for doing them well. This team needed an enema (figuratively speaking).KICKASSCHIP

There are many things that motivate but, for teams, I think competition works best. I don’t think I’m alone in not liking others who are more successful than I. (Not personally, but professionally.) I don’t think that makes me a bad person, it just makes me human. It’s at the heart of competition. We like to win! We like to have bragging rights. Further, everyone likes to be on a winning team! With this in mind, I manufactured a competition to get this team moving.

MANUFACTURED!? Yes! I manufactured it. Some competitions are easy to see and others have to be made up. It may seem a bit manipulative but, like I said, this team needed a jump start (okay, I said enema) and, once in motion, teams tend to stay in motion. How do you manufacture a competition?

First, pick a benchmark. For this venture, I picked the command whose metrics were consistently better than ours. They had no idea I had targeted them and, most likely, didn’t care but they gave us the fuel for the competition.

Second, plan to kick ass. I went to my team and talked to them about our competition and asked how we could drive this other command into the ground. They came up with great ideas on how to boost our metrics. I also asked them on what would be the reward for when we did it. Again, they came up with some good ideas (NOTE: I had to shoot down “a circus clown keg party” (they were a creative crew).

Third, kick ass. With marching orders in hand, we stepped out and executed the plan. We talked about where we were and where we were going every day. Further, if one team member started slacking, another would do some “peer to peer” coaching to get that person moving again. As momentum built so did the excitement on reaching the goal.

Lastly, bring in the clowns. Even though I shot down the circus clown keg party, when we “SMOKED” the other command we did celebrate. Celebrate as big or small as the goal dictates. I don’t think you can go too big (as long as no one ends up in jail).

What’s funny is that the metrics we picked ended up being the ones that my boss was being judged by and not only did we get bragging rights but he did too. Perhaps I should have asked him about priorities before I manufactured the competition but, in the end, it worked out.

Some competitions are easy to pick out and others need to be manufactured. Our team went from malaise to magnificent by having someone to compete with and a goal. Do you smell the apathy in the air? If so, pick a division or another department to compete with, set the plan and then kick some ass!

This post has been republished with permission from Chip Lutz

Chip Lutz

Chip Lutz

President and Founder at Unconventional Leader, LLC
Lieutenant Commander Chip Lutz, USN(Ret) works with leaders who want to lead better, get more done and leave a legacy. A retired Navy Officer, he has had two command tours and served as the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC during September 11th 2001 – where he was responsible for the safety and security of 25,000 people on 9 different Naval Installations in the National Capital Region during one of our Nation’s most trying times. A seasoned educator and trainer, he is currently adjunct faculty for two different universities and has taught over 20 different classes in leadership, management, human resource development, and organizational behavior. He is the author of 3 books, been published in Security Management Magazine, and has had numerous articles on teamwork and leadership published in Zig Ziglar’s Weekly Newsletter.
Chip Lutz
Chip Lutz

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