If the need to win is the dominant gene in your “success DNA”—the main reason you’re successful—then winning too much is a genetic mutation that can limit your success. ~Marshall Goldsmith
For all of you competitive types out there, this quote may have both gotten your attention and either confused you or made you a little angry. After all, how could winning too much possibly limit success?
Marshall Goldsmith is someone I’ve admired for a number of years. Marshall is an executive coach and best-selling author whose focus is leadership behavior. He has helped successful leaders achieve positive lasting change in behavior for themselves and their teams.
Here’s how Marshall explains this idea of winning too much.
One big issue of successful leaders is winning too much. If it’s important, we want to win. If it’s meaningful, we want to win. If it’s trivial, we want to win. If it’s not worth it, we still want to win. Why? We like winning.
Winning too much underlies nearly every other behavioral problem. If we argue too much, it’s because we want our view to prevail (we want to win). If we’re guilty of putting down other people, it’s our stealthy way of positioning them beneath us (again, winning). If we ignore people, again it’s about winning—by making them fade away. If we withhold information, it’s to give ourselves an edge over others. If we play favorites, it’s to win over allies and give “our side” an advantage. So many things we do that annoy people stem from needlessly trying to be the alpha male or female in any situation….in other words, the winner.
If you’ve achieved any success, you’re guilty of this every day. When you’re in a meeting at work, you want your opinion to prevail. When you’re arguing your point, you pull out all the stops to come out on top.
And I really appreciate Marshall’s example of how winning too much really can limit our success.
Suppose you want to go to dinner at restaurant X. Your spouse, partner, or friend wants to go to restaurant Y. You have a heated debate. You end up going to restaurant Y. The experience confirms your misgivings. Your reservation is lost, and you have to wait. The service is slow, the drinks weak, and the food bad. You have two options: A: critique the restaurant and smugly point out to your partner that you were right. B: Shut up, eat the food, and enjoy the evening.
When I ask people: “What should you do, and what would you do?” the results are consistent: 75 percent say they would critique the restaurant. Yet they agree they should just shut up and have a good time. If we do a “cost benefit analysis,” we conclude that our relationship with our partner or friend is far more important than winning an argument about where to eat. And yet, the urge to win trumps our common sense. We do the wrong thing, even when we know what we should do.
Imagine how many times a similar scenario happens in your organization – when winning has a much greater cost than the benefit realized from winning. So, maybe winning too much really can limit your success?