Defining the Competition is Important for Collaboration

Having read this article on competition in the medical field in the fight against cancer, this made me think about competition in the workplace. Who is the competition and what can you do to help break down silos at work? How can you become more collaborative enhancing both your career and the goals of your employer? That is the focus of this article.

Having read this article on competition in the medical field in the fight against cancer, this made me think about competition in the workplace. Who is the competition and what can you do to help break down silos at work? How can you become more collaborative enhancing both your career and the goals of your employer? That is the focus of this article.


Think about cancer. Think about being in the medical field and wanting to save lives by beating cancer. Then think about competition in the medical field and wanting to be the firm that “finds the cure”. Think what that could mean. What is most important? Curing cancer, being the firm that cures cancer, or being part of the team that cures cancer. Seriously, think about what is the most important goal. Isn’t the most important goal to cure cancer? Given the complexity of the disease doesn’t it make more sense to collaborate with each other?

Your goals

With that in mind, pause and reflect on what you are doing, what your group is doing, what your firm is doing and what is the ultimate goal of each.


What are your goals? What are your ambitions? Where do you want to be? What is it going to take to get you there?


How supportive is your team, your boss or your firm? Are you doing what you want to be doing? Seriously, where do you want to be in 2 to 5 years from now? Some suggest even longer-term horizons, but as an executive, I used to say the job you will have 5 years from now likely does not exist today. What are you doing to enhance your skills now for that position in the future?

Competition versus collaboration

A certain amount of competition is healthy, but collaboration is the way of the future. A fair amount has been written on this subject from the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, The New York Times and others. I was particularly struck by this quote from the New York Times article speaking with an executive from the Silicon Valley when he stated:

Silicon Valley versus Congress


“it’s interesting that in Silicon Valley “collaboration” is defined as something you do with another colleague or company to achieve greatness — something to be praised — as in: “They collaborated on that beautiful piece of software.” But in Congress “collaboration” means something very different today. It’s the second definition — collaboration is an act of treason — something you do when you cross over and vote with the other party. In Silicon Valley, great “collaborators” are prized; in Washington, they are hanged. Said Cohen, who was vice president at Nicira, a networking start-up that recently sold for $1.26 billion: “In Washington, when they say ‘collaborator’ they mean ‘traitor’; here they mean ‘colleague.’


Think about what this means with respect to you, your team, your firm and how you look at collaboration.

Attitude and collaboration

Is collaboration fostered at every level? If not why not? What can you do to help overcome these barriers? Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? Look in the mirror first. Determine if you are part of the problem. If so, what steps are you prepared to take to change your own attitude? Are you willing to make changes in how you interact with others?

Steps you can take for yourself

Check out how to address your attitude at work, home and life and how you can make your own life amazing with proper balance. It all starts with you and your attitude. Think about where you are and where you want to be. A recent article presented that 70% of happiness stems from relationships. The research grew out of research by Murray and Peacock.


The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996.


Consider your values

Your firm likely has a statement of values. If not, check out the link in the last sentence and see some examples. Similarly, you have your own values. We are all human. We all make mistakes.



However, we all have a core set of values.



When you are in conflict with someone else, likely you are focusing on beliefs, but when you begin to focus on values, it is possible to find common values to overcome conflict with others. Focus on finding and working on mutual values.


Given the firm’s goals what your goals? Use a tool like the SMART model to determine your own goals and write them down. The key is to write them down. If you write them down you are far more likely to complete your goals. This process is elaborated in the book The Servant Manager.


 It is important that your goals be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.


Your goals need to be clear. Avoid the law of can’t. That is a goal cannot be reached if it does not exist. This seems obvious, but it is so easy to forget it. The focus so far has been on personal goals for self. What about beyond self and a good greater than yourself?

Collaboration and goals

Coming back to collaboration. Think of goals more broadly then about yourself. What goals do you have to reach out to others? To learn more about others? To partner with others? How might you do this? Perhaps it starts with a cup of coffee, a walk, or grabbing something to eat.


The first step is to develop a connecting relationship. The second step is actively listening to their concerns.


Not offering advice or solutions, but simply reflecting what you have heard, while in the back of your mind looking for ways to partner. Once the other party has been listened to consider how to judiciously educate the other party on what you have to offer that may help. This is not selling, this is looking for ways to mutually gain based on what you may offer as a solution provider.

What about those that don’t want to collaborate?

Some think it is better to play hardball and focus on winning. In this instance winning at all costs and bringing down the competition is the real goal. When negotiating with a hard bargainer, understand differing negotiating styles and take appropriate actions. Peaceful Resolutions offers some great ideas on how to negotiate with hard bargainers, soft bargainers and principled bargainers. An alternative may be to walk away. Realize it is not about you. If the other party does not want to work with you, you need to accept this and move on.

Bringing it all together

When you have a connecting relationship, and you truly listen to the other party to work towards addressing a mutual area of concern, you can negotiate out an attitude of respect for one another. This leads to a potential win-win relationship. This approach expands the size of the pie so that each party walks away with more pie than when each party is working alone.

Are you looking for some help for you or your team?

Mike Gregory is an expert on conflict resolution. He focuses on conflict resolution business to business, business to government (IRS)and within businesses. Mike is an international speaker and he has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. Mike may be contacted directly at and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]