Leaders Redraw the Map of Competition

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This article is an initial articulation of a bold, wild and maybe crazy leadership idea. I want your help to kick this idea around and refine it. Or we could decide to just throw it away. Let me know.

The New Leadership Normal focuses on crossing boundaries between the functional areas of your business. If this concept is new to you check here.

It’s human nature to focus on what’s right in front of us. We think local. Obviously we fit into a bigger ecosystem but it’s hard to see.

I think of the map in the image with this article. We can see great detail, even our building, on the map and the boundaries that surround it – neighborhood, town or city, county, state, but then we can expand the boundaries to see a much bigger picture and blur all those boundary lines.

Once we form an affinity to our small group we take ownership. We become proprietary. We defend the group and it’s members. We even may make it difficult for people to join the group.

We live within our map. Our map may be the customer service desk where we work. It may also include the customer service department. Perhaps even the company.

We are capable of being flexible with these boundaries. If the issue is something small like a football game the border lines make a difference. People in Ohio and Michigan don’t get along during November. However if the issue is bigger, like our place in the world economy and innovating, people from Ohio and Michigan can work very well together.

The job of the leader is to redraw the map.

A typical friction exists between sales and marketing. We frequently see people in these functions blaming each other for failings. There is a leader of each department. These leaders are loyal to their people. They each develop their own culture.

The problem is that the border lines of the map are too local. Sales has a border around it. Marketing has a border around it. Like two cities they do need to have their boundaries. Their own leadership, their own rules.

What does it take to have sales and marketing naturally work together? The map needs to be redrawn at least philosophically. We need to zoom out.

OK, here goes:

Competition should not happen within the organization. Competition should be focused on true competitors outside the organization.

Competition should be identified as outside our borders. Inside the borders competition is not valuable. Cooperation is the most useful state.

Yes, that means that we don’t compare one sales person to another in a sales contest. That’s thinking too small.

Problems between departments must be re-framed to solve the problems and focus any winning and losing outside to the real competition.

Employees shouldn’t be in open competition for promotions. The best qualified should get the job. They should be shepherded into the job because we are developing people properly.

When solving problems boundaries get in the way. If you’re solving the problem of terrorism should the competition be focused on whether the CIA or the FBI has the better intelligence or should that effort be focused on the real problem?

I don’t even think we should compete on charity goals between departments. It sets the wrong focus.

Sound drastic? I know, it does in a way. Is it even possible?

We are fighting human nature. Most all of us relish competition. (I know there are exceptions.)

The point is I think many issues and problems can be positively affected if that competitive spirit is re-focused on the actual competition rather than turned inward.

How would this work? What barriers must we overcome? I want your help to dig into this idea. Can we redirect this competitive spirit more productively? Can leaders re-draw maps?

Click the image below to leave your comments and join in the discussion.

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Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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