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Ways that Winning can become Losing

The past few weeks with the Superbowl and Olympics reminds just how much American society loves winners. We celebrate winners and generally forget the losers. People love to consume stories about success and how people achieved it. We lionize sentiments like “killer instinct”, “win at all costs”, and “winning is everything”. Having a deep desire to win is hugely valuable as a motivator to work, train, and improve. Taken too far, however, this desire can become unhealthy and destructive to yourself and your team in ways like these:

1. When everything is a competition, everything becomes win-lose – this distorted world view can inhibit teamwork and cause you to overlook opportunities for win-win scenarios or for constructive compromise.

2. The desire to win morphs into fear of losing – this mind-set shift can create a lack of creativity, aversion to risk, and team stagnation. Playing to not lose is sometimes hard to detect but will rob your team of vitality.

3. Denial and delusion – losing is part of life and the resilience to keep trying is more important than any win. If we cannot accept losing with grace, we may lose the courage to take any risks or to begin the effort. If not winning becomes a stigma, we may hide any weakness, becoming isolated and afraid to face hard truths.

How does your team or organization deal with winning and losing? Is competition a force for good or for ill in your team?

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