5 Tips for Growing Team Connection vs. Competition


“And down the stretch they come!”  That should sound familiar if you’ve been to The Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The announcer yells with excitement as the horses make the final turn toward the finish line. Everyone is routing for the horses they placed bets on. Pick the winning horse? You’re thrilled with excitement! And, the winning team – horse, jockey, trainer, and owner – gets all the glory. 

Just think about all of the talent on the track during that race. Horses have to qualify to compete in The Kentucky Derby. But, there can only be one winner.

Teams Are Competing, Not Connecting

Does your team feel that way… like they’re in a horse race trying to compete for a little recognition for the work they’re doing, or vying for a limited number of promotions? Are there ‘favorites’ that tend to get all the opportunities? 

Research shows that among the top reasons people leave their jobs are that they don’t feel valued, don’t feel a sense of community, and don’t feel they have opportunities for development or advancement. With the rates of turnover and open positions you’re trying to fill, you can’t afford to have employees experience this type of work environment.

What can you do?

5 Tips for Creating Connection

This ‘tip sheet’ of 5 strategies will help you create connection instead of competition.

Tip 1. Get to Know Each Other

I know. It’s busy. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the work done. So, you haven’t invested time in sitting down with employees to really get to know them. This is a priority! Schedule intentional time to get to know each team member and for them to get to know you. What are their interests in their day-to-day work and for their career? What are their interests outside of work? And, how can you help make space for them to enjoy those interests? What do you have in common? Some people are more private. So, honor their preferences for sharing. Assessments like the #WHY Discovery and DISC can also help deepen self-awareness and team connection. Make your weekly one-on-ones a time for connection…. asking about how they’re doing and what you can do to help.

Tip 2. Align Employees with Their Sweet Spot

Early in my career at GE, Jeff Barnes, an HR leader who had a tremendous influence on my career, taught us that to develop into high performing, high potential talent, we need to find and work in our sweet spot. He drew a Venn diagram with these three circles – ‘your interests’, ‘your strengths’, ‘needs of the organization‘. The intersection of these three variables is your sweet spot. As employees, we rarely get to choose to work in our sweet spot. As a leader, if you know your team members (tip 1), you can align their role to their sweet spot and watch them flourish.

Tip 3. Make Opportunities Available

Create an environment where competition and winning are not the game. Change the perception (and practice) that the finish line is being the one to land the promotion. There are so many opportunities around your current business priorities that can provide a challenging new opportunity for members of your team. Have team members lead a project team or represent your department at important business meetings. Encourage lateral career moves to broaden their business experience. And, review your talent management policies and practices. Ensure they are equitable, raising the visibility of and opportunity for all talent across your organization. Opportunities often go to people who are more well-known or are considered ‘favorites’.

Tip 4. Make Recognition a Habit

There are three big problems I often see with recognition in this context – a) recognition is lacking, b) pats on the back often go to the same people, c) nobody else knows about the great work your team members are contributing. People don’t feel seen or valued when their work is not recognized. We have an innate need to feel like we’re doing meaningful work and contributing in valuable ways. Let people know! Spread the love! Express your appreciation. Even a simple ‘thank you for ______’ [be specific] goes a long way. Find out from your team members how they would like to be recognized. Don’t assume you know. A ‘one size fits all’ is not appropriate. You, leader, should be your team’s biggest cheerleader. Share the great work your team members are contributing. Commitment grows when we’re seen and appreciated. 

Tip 5. Build a High Value-Creating Team

A competitive environment breeds individualism and a quest for winning at all costs. The result, a toxic work environment and lackluster performance. A high value-creating team works together and communicates in a way that raises morale and alignment in achieving outcomes that create beneficial value for its stakeholders. Tips 1 through 4 above will help you get there. In addition, it takes intentional work together, often with a team coach, collaborating on the social contract for your team’s purpose, your vision, and your working relationship, and being accountable for carrying it through.

You’ve Got Talent

You have a very capable and talented team around you. Don’t miss that! See your full field of talent, not just the ones who appear to be running out front. Create a work environment where everyone feels valued, loves to work, and can win in ways that are important for them. If you’re ready to elevate your leadership and team’s performance, or would like to bring an inspiring message to your conference or corporate event, let’s have a conversation. I’m here to help.


She’s a woman on a mission, prepped and ready to help you create resilient leaders and a workplace that is poised to succeed. Having weathered her fair share of corporate and career crises of all sizes, Vivian Blade MBA, MBB, PMP, is a global leadership expert and thought leader who equips leaders with the resilience that inspires teams to recover quickly in the face of ongoing disruption and thrive in spite of insurmountable odds.

Vivian empowers leaders and organizations as a frequent keynote speaker for association conferences and in delivering transformative leadership development programs, executive coaching and consulting for corporations.

Copyright 2023 Vivian Blade