Mark, the hyper-competitive sales executive

Mark’s was his organization’s top performing sales person. He had come to coaching after receiving feedback that he was difficult to work with, and not a team player. His boss had also noted that Mark was resistant to change.

As I listened to Mark tell his story, it was clear that he saw everything as a competition. If there was a sales goal, he would find a way to beat it. If a colleague was performing well, he would outshine them. In his leadership role, he motivated his team of salespeople by having them compete with each other.

I asked to speak to the Competitive part of Mark. Mark’s Competitor confidently announced the world is made of winners and losers, and he (the Competitive part) was the reason why Mark was a winner. I asked what this part of Mark thought about being more collaborative, and the part replied, “That’s for losers who can’t hit the numbers on their own.”

Mark had interpreted his boss’s request that he become less competitive and more collaborative as the direction to be a loser. No wonder he was resistant to this change.

I then asked Mark if I could speak with the opposite of the Competitor, the part of him that didn’t like to compete. After some initial trouble finding this part within him, Mark connected with this part by thinking of his less-assertive younger brother, whom he loved dearly. Speaking from this part, Mark was shocked by what he heard coming out of his own mouth. This part said, in a quiet, nervous voice without making eye contact, “Every time Mark wins, I feel more lonely. I don’t want to be better than anyone else. I just want to belong.”

Mark had spent so many years listening to the loud, demanding voice of his Competitor, he’d completely drowned out the part that wanted to belong. Now reconnected with this part, he could acknowledge this need. Belonging became a positive motivation to collaborate more. Once Mark had seen this part, he could not unsee it, and it allowed him to learn some new ways of relating at work.

Even as this more collaborative aspect of his nature began to develop, Mark did not lose his characteristic competitive fire. He told me some months later that his Competitor was now demanding that he be the best at collaborating.

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