I’m not a massive F1 fan but I thoroughly enjoyed the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend and seeing Lewis Hamilton win another championship. I also watched the brilliant documentary “Senna” about the life and untimely death of Ayrton Senna. Much of Senna’s career was defined by his rivalry with Alain Prost, and Hamilton has been in a few battles with team mates including Button and Rosberg. We’ve enjoyed intense rivalries in other sports too: Bjorg vs McEnroe, Federer and Nadal, Palmer vs Nicklaus, Wenger and Ferguson. They are always great for the viewer but are they good for the individuals. Do rivalries bring out the best, or the worst, in competitors? If you find yourself pitched up against one of the best in your career, how can you make sure you use it to get ahead rather than let it eat you up?
- Be yourself. At certain times in our lives, we forget who we are. We try and take on another person’s characteristics and style. We do this with friendships as well as with colleagues. Trying to emulate others is a step on the road to failure and heartache. Its exhausting and ultimately doomed so don’t try and morph into your rival. Develop, and maintain, a strong sense of who you are. How do you work best? What do people like or admire about you? Maximise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses.
- Learn from the best. Having said that, do study your competition and notice what they do well. What is about them that makes people sit up and take notice? Whilst you don’t want to become your rival’s mini-me, you can learn from what they do and take the best bits on board. But, just as you wouldn’t try and re-engineer your golf swing lightly, don’t change your style of presentation unless it really works for you.
- Think big. The greatest rivalries result in greater success for both individuals as they raise their game. Small minded individuals lower the collective performance. Remember Stephen Covey’s “Abundance Mentality” which shows us that there are infinite possibilties in the world and your gain is not necessarily my loss. Losing in Wimbledon a final, which only one man can win, is is painful but by becoming a better player, the loser may win next time when his rival is injured. In career terms, if your rival beats you to a promotion, look to your own performance as when he gets head-hunted away, you may find the job becomes yours.
- Be generous. The sports field, the media and the office are no place for bitchiness. If you criticise your rival, you only make yourself look bad – especially when you lose. Compliment your competition every chance you get and always lose with grace – in public at least. Feel free to throw a tantrum behind closed doors if you wish!
- Leave it at the door. You need to use your fierce competition to up your own game, and this means staying positive, focused and healthy. You must not let your rivalry eat you up or dwell on it at night. Don’t lie awake wondering what he or she is doing. Leave your competition on the sports field or in the office and maintain a great work-life balance.