Competition: Striving to Win First Place

A CliftonStrengths Theme Spotlight

"People exceptionally talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests" -The Gallup Organization

Competition is one of my favorite themes to discuss with family, friends, and clients. It's one of those themes that is typically on full display from a very early age, often in raw form. When we talk with people who have this Influencing theme, they often recall humorous childhood memories of their competitiveness getting them in trouble:

"When I knew I was going to lose the game, I started crying and threw the board game off the table."

"My parents had to pull me out of baseball for a season because I couldn't handle losing."

"I wanted to win so badly I would cheat."

"My Mom finally stopped playing games with me."

These competitive kids grew up to be driven, motivated, and successful adults, most of whom don't throw things when they lose. As they've matured, they've likely learned how to regulate their emotions in defeat.

But that internal drive to be the best?

It's still very much there.

The Talents of People High in Competition

Whether they are competing physically or intellectually, people high in the Competition theme have an unquenchable desire to be at the top of the stat sheet. They love contests, races, and challenges that give them opportunities to outperform others. They aren't satisfied to just play the game; they want to win.

One unique thing about people with the Competition theme is that they can have an outward and/or inward focus. Some people we've worked with who have this theme communicate that they are more competitive with themselves than with other people. These individuals are measuring their progress against their past performances.

More commonly, though, are those individuals who are measuring their progress against the performances of their peers. One individual we know with a dominant Competition theme said it this way:

"I 'm always aware of how much other people in our company have sold this month and that helps me see the goalpost or set higher goals for myself. I also work really hard to figure out who our competitors are pursuing. If I don't know who I'm trying to beat, I am not motivated."

People high in Competition typically need their colleagues for comparison. They are more likely to thrive in environments in which performance is measured in concrete ways, and they tend to enjoy going up against the very best in their workplaces and industries. If they don't know what "winning" looks like to an employer, they might struggle to stay motivated.

As leaders, people high in Competition can create a culture of excellence and winning in the workplace. They inspire their team members to compete to win and to stay informed about outside competitors. They can also help their employees focus on areas in which the team can win.

The Temptations for People High in Competition

Because people high in Competition want to win and are driven to be the best, they can really struggle when they lose or when it turns out they aren't the best. In defeat, they might be sore losers who make excuses for their performances or blame others for their failures.

Another temptation for people high in Competition is making everything a contest. When we work with people high in this theme, we always like to ask, "When was the last time you won something?" to which they usually reply, "this morning" or "an hour ago." The question always generates laughter, because the person high in Competition is always thinking about ways to outperform others, even if it just means beating someone to a stoplight while driving. In the workplace, a person high in Competition might make trivial things feel like win/lose situations.

At times, people high in this theme can be perceived as self-centered, due to their tendency to focus on individual performance. In fact, some people high in Competition strongly dislike working with others because they struggle to see coworkers as team members, and instead view them as threats.

As leaders or business owners, those high in Competition might have a "win at all cost" mentality that discourages or burns-out their team members. If they aren't careful, they will communicate that winning is the only thing that matters.

Compete To Win

Here are a couple of quick ideas to get you thinking about how to leverage and self-regulate if you've got a dominant Competition theme:

  1. Choose tasks, roles, or careers in which you can measure your progress against the progress of others on a consistent basis. But, work hard to remind yourself that your colleagues, in addition to being your competitors, are also your team members.

  2. Try partnering with people high in Strategic Thinking themes. For example, a person high in Analytical will help you form a game-plan based on factors and statistics you might not naturally consider. Additionally, they can help you investigate the reasons you won or lost, which will better prepare you for the next competition.

  3. When working with or leading others, make sure you communicate openly about your Competition theme. Others are more likely to be discouraged by your intensity if you don't learn how to express your drive to compete and win.

At ROI Talent Development, we try to help people fall in love with every single talent theme, even if it isn't dominant in their own theme sequence. Because when we all take the time to understand and appreciate one another, we build happy and healthy workplaces where employee talents are valued and developed.

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