Sunday, February 10, 2013

Can competition and teamwork coexist?

Many supervisors use competition to motivate employees either obviously (through bonuses and promotions) or subtlety (through assigning the "good" work).  Most also advocate that their group is a team and should work together.  Putting aside the issue of what is a team and what is a group of people who work together for another post, can competition and teamwork truly coexist?

I don't know the answer to this one and would love to hear your thoughts.  Personally I tend to shy away from competition and teamwork, preferring to work on a project independently.  Over the past 22 months I have had the privilege of working on two volunteer committees that both functioned as highly-performing and personally enjoyable teams.  The team was packed full of type A leaders and yet everyone left that at the door and worked together to make tough decisions and produce consistently and on-time.  These two committees (each led by a different leader) have been my best experiences with teamwork in my entire life.  Ironically, competition absolutely does not exist in the room.  The work is consistent among all team members and there are no opportunities for advancement.

In other situations where competition is present (in work or volunteer groups) I notice that even I am concerned about getting credit for what I contribute.  And I consider myself non-competititve.  For those who are competitive, how do you feel when working on a team?  Do you still worry about getting credit for your individual contributions?  Does that change the way you interact with your team members?

For leaders of teams made up of high-performing individuals - how do you balance these concepts?  Is teamwork part of what your people are evaluated on?  Are rewards individual or team-based?