What does it mean to win well? In business and leadership, I have learned a few things. On winning well, I have learned:
- Winning without integrity is losing big.
- Winning without a true collaborative spirit is losing possibility.
- Winning through self-centered dominance wastes talent and opportunity.
- Winning by always being right is wrong.
- Winning through cash only will be lonely in the end.
We know what winning well isn’t, yet too many have these experiences. The last three words in the last bullet is what defines winning well – “In the end.” These words will echo through an individual’s soul if they have a soul that can still see a pinhole of light.
Winning at all costs has taken too much of our business time. Our recent business history is littered with examples. The list of leaders who try to win at all costs is long – Kenneth Lay (Enron), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco International), Chainsaw Al Dunlop (Sunbeam), and then there is the financial list – Angelo Mozilo (Countrywide Financial), Joe Cassano (AIG), Bernie Madoff (Madoff Investment Securities), Dick Fuld (Lehman Brothers), and the list continues. Volkswagen is just the latest one.
Winning at all costs is not winning well. Damaged trust, unengaged team members, false growth, and damaged financial outcomes are the real costs. In the end, people are hurt.
Winning Well: My Dad
When I think about winning well, I think of my Dad. A farmer. He ran his business with integrity, consistency, and an orientation toward family and community. We always knew where Dad stood. No matter the weather or situation, Dad did the work. Dad set expectations for us, and we knew the consequences if we did not meet them. He gave back, not only to the land itself but to his community and church. He was frugal yet provided.
What does he have to show for it all? The simple answer is Dad was never a showman. He will leave behind land that keeps producing. He will leave behind four kids with a solid principles. He will leave behind a partner of more than 50 years in which love was expressed for each other, every day. He will leave behind a better church and a community that continues to gather.
All this may seem unexciting, and it really isn’t winning. And that is the point. We have put “winning” too often at the center of what we do or plan to do. Our current political situation is an example of winning gone awry.
Dad never thought about winning. Winning was creating – creating a good life work of planting, harvesting, giving, loving, trusting, and being a positive example with integrity, accountability, and kindness.
Winning has taken over too much of our culture, and we have forgotten the important things in work and life.
Creating Well: Three Cylinders Tuned with Solid Principles
Winning well is firing on life, family, and career cylinders. Each cylinder is interlinked and rarely do they all work in positive unison. As much as we try to tune for performance, the unexpected always happens. How we respond says a lot about us as a person and leader. How we respond and act says a lot about whether we are creating well.
The keys to creating well are to keep certain principles and facts in mind.
Respect. Respect is not “I did this.” Respect is “We did this.” Getting caught in the first is not creating well. Being recognized in the second is creating well. Respect comes through collaborative, higher purpose work. We need to begin and end with respect. Self-respect is essential, too, as it keep us in a healthy mindset to build healthy relationships. Respect works from the inside out and outside in. Mutual respect is empowering.
Honesty and humility. Honesty and humility go hand-in-hand. Being honest in our work means we won’t get off track. When we need to be honest with another person, we are humble in the delivery. The same applies to self-honesty. Being honest is not the same as being right. Being right can become righteous. Again, humility keeps our honesty embraced in empathy. Within this blend, we create with integrity and self-awareness. We create relationships in which we make each other better through accountability and growth.
Purpose. Purpose is not all about self. Purpose is about a higher mission, calling, and result. Purpose enlivens us and those around us. Purpose leaves people and places better than we entered. Creating well skips past self-centeredness and sparks work to produce better results for our team, business, family, and community.
Entanglements. Office politics can derail us. Layoffs can deflate us. Bad economics or competitiveness can stall us. We will hit the wall, and the wall will hit us. These are career facts. How we respond, navigate, and thrive will be an example of how we can create well in challenging and good times. In our entanglements, our character and purpose will be tested. Each will be strengthened when we learn from the experience. Entanglements test and enrich. The outcome needs to be renewed growth.
Richness. Giving is being rich. No matter how much we have, we have the capability to give a smile, hold a door, lift up, and leave a legacy. Richness is not the biggest home, car, or job. Richness is how we make others feel. In work and life, there are many temptations to distract us. Focusing on the right type of richness means we are creating an environment in which our family, colleagues, and neighbors can feel good about who they are and what they can offer. Be rich in what you create.
Creating well requires us to tune our cylinders of life, family, and career. We will rarely have all cylinders working in unison. One will be firing well, and two will not. Two will be firing well, and one will not. All three may be off. What matters is how we continue to create in all situations. What matters is what lasts in what we create.
Shift to Creating Well
We need to shift out of our winning obsession. Winning has become doing what is good for some at the expense of the many. Winning has become degrading some people in order to advance our personal agenda. Winning has become saying anything to rile up rather than setting the example of how to solve problems in better ways. Winning has become losing integrity for market growth, short-term revenue, or makeshift gain. Winning has lopped off purpose for profit, market share, or votes.
When we focus on creating, our mindset shifts to collaboration, betterment, and the right mix of richness and purpose. Are you ready to start a revolution of creating well? Our purpose depends upon it. Our legacy requires it.
What promotes a creating well mindset? How can we make this shift stick?