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How You Can Productively Aim Your Competition Talents

How You Can Productively Aim Your Competition Talents

Gallup's CliftonStrengths Competition definition: People exceptionally talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, once famously said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Those with Competition as one of their Signature Themes understand the truth of that statement because to them there is nothing like winning.

But there is a lesser-known Vince Lombardi quote that perhaps sums up the philosophy of Competition even more accurately: "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser." What marks the true spirit of the Competition theme isn't just the desire to win; everybody likes to win. But hating to lose, well, that is another matter.

Competition hates to lose, and as such chooses it's "games" wisely -- if I can't win, why even play? Competition needs metrics, because metrics spur comparison. "What are the numbers I have to beat? What is the time I need to win? Who is ahead of me -- of us? Who is the closest competitor in our market? Are we more productive this month than last month? What are our year-over-year numbers, and who do we need to beat?" Competing drives performance, and it is performance that counts.

Competition: Helps and Hinders

When coaching those with Competition in their CliftonStrengths Top 5, helping them claim both the "helps and hinders" of the theme is critical to productive aiming. Some common helps and hinders of Competition include:


  • You create daily, monthly and yearly metrics for success to track your performance scores. This creates an energy for your team that pushes them to reach higher levels of achievement.
  • Your drive to outperform others can stimulate innovation and creativity.
  • You are naturally attuned to real-world measures that assess achievement, leading you to describe what outstanding performance looks like.
  • Your drive to win and your need for clear metrics that define success can inspire others and cause them to want to be on your team.


  • If you lead a team, competing to win against your team is counter-productive. Instead, find a way to use your Competition to define and celebrate team wins.
  • Your Competition talents push you, so you might tend to push others -- sometimes too hard.
  • Remember that winning at all costs isn't winning; it's defeating yourself. Make sure your integrity remains intact when you push yourself and your team to victory.
  • Don't let your competitive spirit cloud your relationships with your team members and peers. Find ways to unite your team members by finding what each does best and positioning them for maximum effectiveness to create a winning combination.

Competition: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

In order to productively aim Competition -- or any -- talents at a particular goal, an individual must have: 1) self-awareness about the theme's power, edge and vulnerabilities; 2) an understanding of how the theme finds expression in day-to-day thinking, feeling and behaving; and 3) the ability to regulate the theme to maximize the potential positive outcomes that can be realized through intentionally applying a strengths-based approach. Coaches can help clients with strong Competition talents by exploring the following:


  • The Power and Edge of Competition: There is an energy to Competition that can be contagious; those strong in Competition can inspire others to a higher standard of performance. They can raise a group's achievement level by creating a culture of winning -- comparing against standards of excellence, being aware of competitors' performance and celebrating victories.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Competition: Because they hate losing as much or more than they love winning, those high in Competition can be perceived as judgmental and demanding, driving others to meet their standards of winning and discarding those they perceive as "losers." This can be a destructive pattern and get in the way of building a winning team -- no one wants to be on a team where their efforts are diminished or even belittled.


Coaches can assist clients in realizing and claiming the expression of Competition by helping them explore past instances when this theme has been particularly useful. To facilitate this exploration, coaches can ask the following questions:

  • Tell me about your best day at work. What made it a great day? (listen for expression of Competition)
  • What victory has been most meaningful for you? What made it meaningful?
  • What is your "brand" in your organization? What are you known for?
  • How do you build a winning team?


Self-Regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or know which talents to combine to sharpen, accelerate or soften a specific talent. For example, often team leaders high in Competition assume the best way to motivate everyone on the team is to turn everything into a competition. While this may work for some, others may find the continual competing demotivating. It is then that a coach can help the client identify other talents that might yield better results. Coaches also can help clients explore different theme combinations to accelerate or soften Competition, including:

Competition: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • What are your targets for the next year? How do you know if you are winning?
  • How do you know you are winning at the things that are truly important?
  • How do you help those who have suffered a major defeat in their lives get back in the game?
  • What "lost cause" could benefit from your perspective and drive to win? What will you do about it?
  • Who on your team has potential that is unrealized? How can you invest in that person and build them into a winner?

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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