5 Ways To Cultivate A Better Winning Culture
Winning is a concept that people struggle with. In both personal and professional lives, the measure of success is alogned with how big one wins, or not.
There are two sides to the winning coin, and both of these provide detrimental results in attaining goals. The first is the win-at-all-costs mentality that leaves no margin for second place. The story is told of the Olympic gymnast who achieved a silver medal and was told on the podium when she received her medal “I’m sorry”. That stigma changed her drive and she never competed in gymnastics again. A promising career was ruined by that “second place, first loser” mindset.
The other end of the spectrum is the “everyone is a winner” mentality. This is where everyone passes, gets a trophy, and is praised for just showing up. As objective psychological studies have shows, this undermines those who work hard to earn the same outcome, diminishes the dignity of hard work and preparation, and leaves people with a false sense of entitlement when they don’t get things their way.
As leaders we can create a culture of winning that promotes a healthy balance of rewards and recognition while encouraging people to work hard and set goals. Here are 5 key ways leaders can create this type of work culture:
Set goals. To have a truly proper winning mindset, you must set goals with your people. This shows them the value of working towards a reward and a positive outcome. If the goal is just to show up at and perform work, then nothing special is created and the desire for people to be a part of something bigger than themselves is lost. Developing your people through developing goals with them gives them a vision for what they can impact in their work.
Create plans to achieve. In the process of goal setting, you must also help develop a plan for your people to attain them. Many times goals are set without setting up a successful plan of action, and the employee is left floundering and discouraged. Set them up for success by laying out the steps needed with milestones to gauge their progress. Each milestone will help them feel like they’re winning by achieving those benchmarks.
Reward honest effort. Not to exclude rewarding results, and not to include celebrating every little step, key in on people who have creatively solved a problem, overcame a challenge, or just rolled up their sleeves and works hard on a project. If the Olympic gymnast above had been praised for her hard work and training she may have had a more successful gymnastics career.
Encourage growth through struggles. I’ve always been a proponent of people’s growth over time, no matter how slow. My experience has shown that slow learners over time become the most solid achievers because of their willingness to learn through challenges and setbacks. Everyone needs to be measured by their own growth curve, and not someone else’s. If we view people’s growth as a short-term gain, we promote short-term careers and short-term loyalty. But with a view towards the long game, we can see how people fit in when they grow more slowly. Encourage what people learn and become over what people achieve.
Frame winning in a different light. My favorite example of this is when Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan was awarded the silver medal. The heavy favorite to win gold in her event, people said they were sorry that she lost the gold. That gold was never hers to begin with, and Michelle knew that and would respond, “I didn’t lose the gold, I won the silver!” Her mindset was that she achieved something special and others were not going to diminish that accomplishment. Frame success in it’s true perspective, stay positive but realistic, and don’t allow a “second place, first loser” mindset to take hold in your culture.
Winning cultures display these characteristics regularly and achieve a more broad level of success throughout the entire organization. Winning companies don’t always have the biggest market share or profits margins, and winning teams don’t always win the championships. But over the long haul these types of organizations create winning cultures that impact their industry and those that are a part of their culture. Frame winning for what it truly is – setting and achieving goals and not merely first place finishes.