When You See Competition in Action, What Eyes Are You Using?

Picture This . . . Two directors are arguing at the regional planning meeting. He’s all for committing to a significant stretch target that would put them way ahead of other business units. She argues that the ambitious target will jeopardize the steady growth of the past six quarters, which put the business back into the black. Who’s right?

Seeing through the eyes of gender
Some would look at these two directors arguing and attribute the gap to a gender difference. Then again recent neuroscience has identified that men and women compete differently. The stereotype that women are less competitive has been debunked as a myth, not by a theorist or an expert but by neuroscience.

In their recent book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman reveal that women think much more about the probability of success as opposed to men. Women compete just as hard as men. However, they require better odds of winning before they will even consider getting into the game. Women
…choose competitors differently.
…don’t have the same timing in their attacks and withdrawals.
…differ in whether they play to win versus play not to lose.
…judge risk differently, even more so when under stress.
…attach different meanings to success and failures, which alters whether they choose to compete again.
…are different in how they buffer the anxiety of endlessly being ranked against others.

The real issue is whether you are wired to win or to not lose
This perspective affects other workplace behaviors, such as dealing with setbacks, innovation, and collaboration. Understanding the nuances of how men and women compete can increase overall performance. The gap is more likely to be the result of a different point of view.

What would you do?
If you were in the room with the two directors who were arguing, whose approach would you choose? To raise the bar and challenge the team or build on the current strategy that has turned losses into gains? Is your approach wired to win or not to lose?

Seeing through the eyes of differences
Along with higher expectations comes increased competitiveness. Tempting as it may be to dismiss a disagreement as a “gender thing,” you may want to embrace what science is revealing and view competitiveness in your management meetings through different eyes. After all, differences impact your bottom-line results one way or the other.

Have you seen this in action?
Are you using a default lens or mindset?
What lens could you use when assessing others competitive behavior?

Your thoughts….  share them with us under comments…


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