Employee engagement - play the game don't game the score

Collaborative Competition: The Extraordinary Power of Trash Talk

Collaborative competition inspires. Seeing “them” inspires “us.” Competition makes work fun. Unless, it doesn’t. Stay on the right side of trash talk.  Create collaborative competition to inspire your team.

A New York State of Mind

I ran a 2000 person sales team so did the guys in New York. They were the “ones to catch” on some metrics. In others we led the way. We studied their playbook. They studied ours. We both sent “spies” to learn more. We left voice mails talking trash. My cellphone rang tunes of “New York State of Mind” and “I love New York” reminding every one of the competition.

Of course, the vision was bigger. Competition was play. We traded “players.” Benchmarking became a game. Both teams grew. The bar rose. Both teams achieved. Work was fun.

Collaborative Competition

  • inspires
  • unifies
  • finds fun
  • sparks creativity
  • improves
  • shares

Unhealthy Competition

  • hides
  • loses
  • stifles
  • diminishes
  • creates stress

Creating Collaborative Competition

“”If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.”

Leverage competition to drive collaboration. Make collaboration a competitive game.

Here’s how…

  • Align intent
  • Interact
  • cross-pollinate
  • Share playbooks
  • Mandate sportsmanship
  • Speak well
  • Talk a little trash
  • Keep a scoreboard
  • Celebrate small victories
Posted in Results & Execution and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. Of course it works in sales…I think that goes without saying and I’m sure everyone has stories to share there.

    But I’ve found that it works in the most unlikely places, like creative arts, customer service, and even in finance.

    Whoever designs the best performing banner gets $300. Submit by Monday at 2pm.

    Whoever has the lowest loss rate (of customers) this month gets $500.

    Whoever finds the most savings (in finance) gets $300.

    It’s amazing to watch what happens…and the trash talk is great.

  2. Pingback: Collaborative Competition: The Extraordinary Power of Trash Talk | People Discovery

  3. Karin, what’s an example of “We left voice mails talking trash”?

    I like what you have said, and I think I’ve got an idea of what you mean,,, but I’m having flash-backs of my 1st trip to the US many years ago when some things were ‘lost in translation’ (who would have thought).

  4. Pingback: Prove it! Growing Leaders One Proof at a Time - Let's Grow Leaders

  5. Pingback: 7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team - Let's Grow Leaders

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