Like many Canadians, and citizens of countries from around the world, the bulk of my attention during the 2016 Olympics was on our athletes. The decathlon really caught my attention as it seems to go against the typical race to out-run, out-throw, and out-jump one’s competitors. The point system for this event considers each athlete individually, comparing how they did at this event with how they’ve performed over the previous year. This complex point system has athletes competing across ten different events, not against each other but against themselves. The decathletes consistently congratulated each other during and after each event. In a world where we see the competition as the enemy, I wonder how far we could go in our businesses—and our personal lives—if instead of hoping the competition falters, we focused on doing the best that we can do and congratulating others on their accomplishments.
[pullquote]In a world where we see the competition as the enemy, I wonder how far we could go in our businesses—and our personal lives—if instead of hoping the competition falters, we focused on doing the best that we can do and congratulating others on their accomplishments.[/pullquote]
Focus on your strengths
The decathlon involves individuals competing across ten different sports in order to determine the best overall athlete. While one individual might be better at javelin, another might win at hurdles or high jump. Just like these athletes, we all have different strengths. If we simply focus on beating the competition, we limit ourselves to their standard. I suggest that if we focus on meeting or beating our own best then we will truly impress our clients—we’ll collect maximum points. This focus on outdoing ourselves also sets the bar higher for the next task or project with a client, which encourages us to work harder to continually improve on our work.
Respect your competitors
No decathlete, not even the gold medal winner, wins every event, and he or she is the first to admit it. In fact, the overall winner might only win a few of the events. In order to be successful, every decathlete must have incredible respect for all of the other competitors because each brings a different strength to the competition. I believe it is the same in business. If you respect your competitors, you will be able to admit that they might be better at certain tasks or that their products might offer things that your products don’t. However, your product might be more versatile, more easily accessible, better perform under pressure, or prove to be the best in its class in a particular environment. Perhaps your organization offers a different or better service than a competitor. For example, you might not be able to offer a team of 40 individuals to work on a marketing campaign, but the 8 individuals you do have could be more focused on their clients’ needs and offer a more personalized relationship experience. Instead of offering mediocre service for a mediocre product, what you end up with are organizations that excel in specific areas, which is best for everyone. What would happen if you highlighted the strengths of your services and your products? This type of exercise can also help you focus on your target market so you don’t waste time trying to serve clients who aren’t right for you.
[pullquote]if we focus on meeting or beating our own best then we will truly impress our clients—we’ll collect maximum points.[/pullquote]
Work on your weaknesses
Decathletes know where their strengths lie, but they also know their weaknesses and they work on these events even harder than they do on the events where they excel. While we can’t be all things to all clients and all markets, we can try to make improvements so that we ensure we always bring the best we have to the table. Unlike athletes, in the business world, we have the luxury of going one step further and outsourcing those tasks we struggle with to experts in their field, committing to acquiring new skills and knowledge in these areas ourselves, or hiring on key members of the team so that they become part of the service and brand that we offer. Many companies and organizations tend to commit to offering services and products that they cannot deliver in order to gain a client. However, the results of this approach are often devastating.
[pullquote]Smart organizations recognize their weaknesses and hire someone with the strengths to perform these tasks so that they can focus on and highlight their own strengths.[/pullquote]
Turning your weaknesses into strengths: Outsourcing
As a writer and editor, I am often approached to polish up a presentation or write a marketing piece. My clients approach me because they know that I bring strengths of both creativity and effective communication skills (including a love for grammar) that they do not have. Smart organizations recognize their weaknesses and hire someone with the strengths to perform these tasks so that they can focus on and highlight their own strengths. Because grammatical mistakes and poor or clunky writing stand out so much to an audience, organizations who do not even recognize these weaknesses end up highlighting them instead. Basically, it’s just like I say on my website: “…at HH Communication Services, we do what we do best so that you can get back to doing what you do best.”
I challenge you today to change the way you think about your competition. Instead of trying to copy and outdo your competitors, focus on identifying and highlighting what you do well and making improvements on the things you should be doing better. That way, you collect maximum points and keep raising the standard so that you reach your full potential.
If I can help you improve on your writing or other communication materials, I’d love to help you raise the bar. Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org!