How to Create a Culture of Cooperation Not Competition

Creating a culture of co-operation is core to bringing out the best in people because it is aligned to what makes us human. There is nothing healthy about “internal competition.”

A competitive culture exists when your employees adopt a “desire to win” mentality. While this is okay if it is targeted at external competitors, if it is driven towards internal stakeholders, it drives a different set of behaviourswhich can be very negative and destructive.

Competitive thinking directs energy, time and resources towards internal challenges rather than external threats, whereas within a culture of cooperation everyone has a shared sense of purpose.

Serve vs. Win/Lose

Fostering a culture of cooperation requires every individual to have a ‘serve’ mentality. The question on everyone’s mind should be, “How can I contribute to the success of the company?” not “How can I make myself look good? How can I win?” 

As leaders, a serve mentality would mean that when our team performs well, we give credit to the people in our teams who contributed to those efforts, as opposed to taking the credit for ourselves. 

Our Goal vs. My Goal 

It’s essential that each team member, particularly leaders, always have the company goals at the core of what they do each day. 

While team goals and outcomes are important to the progress of an organisation, the focus should always be, “How can we as a company achieve our goals?”

In companies where internal competition exists it’s easy to fall into situations where leaders are fighting for revenue and resources for their teams, as they are more concerned with hitting their targets, and don’t necessarily see the bigger picture of what is best for the company. 

Team vs. Individual 

Having a team first mentality means employees put their team KPIs and performance measures, ahead of their own personal KPIs. In the context of a marketing team, this might mean a social media manager has to give up a portion of their budget to contribute to PR or lead generation efforts. 

While this might negatively impact social media results for that month or quarter, it could be the best option for the team. 

Trust vs. Fear

Ultimately, internal competition is bred from fear. Employees will generally compete with each other if they are worried about not achieving results, out of fear that it could stop them getting that next promotion or pay rise. 

If you want your team members to come from a contribution first mindset, you need to first foster a culture of trust and transparency. 

For more insights on building a thriving team culture check out this article: 5 Key Drivers of a High-Performance Culture


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