They Play to Win, We Play to Draw | HR Fishbowl

VACATION ARCHIVE: I’m on vacation and so, therefore, is my blog. Here’s one that was originally published on October 29, 2009.

My four-year old some times tells me she wants to play, but “not a game that’s about winning.”  I can understand that – sometimes the prospect of losing is just too much.  I played the most competitive of sports in High School – Jazz Band.  I lived for those performances when I got to compete in a dueling sax part.  It’s what I trained all those short hours for (I played the baritone sax and lugging home that huge honker of a horn was no fun…practice was a rarity).  I really hated Syd (alto sax and chief rival).  He thought he was so good and even though he now plays professionally for an awesome jazz singer and is married to her and she’s hot, he wasn’t all that good back then.  But he made me work hard.  I didn’t like being second to him, and I certainly didn’t like “losing” during those duels.  Syd was my competition and competition was good for business…

I got to thinking about competition in my life these days.  I don’t play the sax anymore, but I do get on the squash court, tennis court, and golf course from time to time – two involve a genteel kind of competition and the other just involves beer.   But what about the place I spend 2/3 of my waking hours every day?  I realized, I don’t really have any real (external) competition in my HR career.  Sure, there’s myself.  There are my peers, but we are collaborative rock stars and hardcore competition rarely enters the picture.  Line employees, on the other hand, who are tasked with developing business or providing a product/service to clients have the constant presence of direct competitors to fuel that desire to win.  Generally they like the game, the challenge, the thrill of victory.  They get to enter into battle every day, they get to measure their success with tangible results – you either win or you lose…there are no ties.

So I’m trying to figure out whether we have the same in HR?   Does one need that competition to truly excel?  To innovate?  To perform?  Do we have the same drive to win?  Is it the absence of a direct competitor that puts us in a different class?  Are we inherently viewed as not having the competitive fire?  Are the operations leaders playing on the football team and is HR playing in the marching band?  Maybe it doesn’t matter – maybe the football team needs the marching band to win and the marching band needs the football team to play.  You’re either on one or the other and that’s ok…

I say that in order to win, one needs to compete.  In order to compete, one needs a competitor.  Who or what is HR’s competitor and do we need one to truly advance our calling?

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