Rivals for Improvement

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions. – Ken Blanchard

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is on!  My wife absolutely loves watching skating, hockey and curling.   She is glued to the television when any of these come on.  I’ve never been a sports fan of any kind and regularly embarrass my wife and son when I try to talk about any sports.  But I do find the Olympics fascinating.  What impresses me is the level of skill that these Olympians achieve.  I watch the competitions and I’m blown away at how anyone can assess the minute differences between these top-notch athletes.  They are clearly at the top of their game.  Just being there is an accomplishment.  They are the best of the best.  Yet to them, the goal is to still be even better, at least better than their competition and earn the gold medal.

I’m not competitive by nature, but I recognize the power of the rival.  Having someone you compete with can make you better.  You try harder.  You take necessary risks.  You stretch outside of your own comfort zone and go beyond yourself.  You improve.  Your opponent can be a trainer, a friend, a family member or even your own shadow.  You try to step ahead of where they are, envisioning, enduring and exceeding.  You push through obstacles that were limiting you and you level up.  Your rival does the same.  It’s a virtuous improvement loop, constantly taunting you to keep going, try harder, be better.

Who is your rival?  Who challenges you to be better?  A good rival is not necessarily an enemy.  In fact, the best rival can be a friend who gives you the gift of honest feedback.  It can be that mentor who encourages you to use your strengths and challenges you to overcome your weaknesses.  You can even be your own rival.  Challenge yourself.  Do honest self-reviews and grade your own performance.  I often find my biggest critic stares back at me in the mirror every morning.  It is a gift you can give yourself.  And it’s good to have someone else who can be real with you and provide honest feedback.  If you don’t have that, be proactive and ask for it. 

Are you a good rival for someone else?  Do you give honest feedback?  I confess, I default to encouraging with kindness over pointing out flaws.  But providing others with candid and sincere insight is also a gift.  It is a form of encouragement and love, if delivered in the right way.  Be kind.  Give feedback.  It’s an improvement area that I seek for myself and encourage you to do the same.

What am I or we doing wrong?  What can I or we do better?   Many on my team are not shy in giving me answers.  Thank you for that!  I invite all of you to do the same and ask those same questions.  We all get better when we know what we can improve.  Embrace the challenge and be a friendly rival too.

Rivals in Business

The virtue of having a rival in our life to be better also applies to business. Our companies need rivals. Just like personal rivals, corporate rivals force businesses to try harder.  They must invest and take necessary risks or they become obsolete.  They stretch outside of their own operational comfort zones, reinvent themselves and enter new markets. They must improve their ways of working and deliver their products and services with higher quality, efficiency, speed, and relevance. Yes, competition is a threat to a business’s survival. But it’s the existence of that threat that keeps the business alive, innovating, adapting and improving. Embrace competition as a healthy rival… and win.

Now back to the winter Olympics, curling… and Nathan Chen.

Olympic rings - Symbol of the Olympic Movement