Ever since childhood, Mark had been known as an in-your-face competitor. Whether it be in sports, in the classroom, or in relationships, he wasn’t happy unless he beat someone else at whatever he was doing. Being in competition to Mark meant that he was going to do whatever he could to ensure he won and that his competitor lost. Those on his team loved his competitive spirit and encouraged it; those not on his team feared him. His behavior was validated through the number of trophies and medals he received while growing up.
As an adult his competitive spirit didn’t wane. He became a feared negotiator in his company’s purchasing organization and became known as a pompous ass who would stop at nothing to ensure that his suppliers were giving up as much as possible so his company could get a better deal. Suppliers hated to deal with him, but his company was too big to ignore so they put up with him.
Jennifer was a new vice president with one of Mark’s suppliers. She was asked to come in and talk with Mark about one of the contracts that was being negotiated and to try to get more of a win-win on the contract. Mark would have nothing to do with it. For him, win-win meant that he was leaving something on the table which simply wasn’t acceptable. In their first meeting Jennifer was very cordial and professional and proposed an idea as to how Mark’s company could get value while Jennifer’s company could also realize a reasonable profit.
Mark immediately went on the attack and questioned Jennifer’s motives, insulted her intelligence, and publicly embarrassed her as being incompetent.Jennifer stood her ground, developed a relationship with Mark’s boss, Alex, and ultimately sold her win-win proposal. Mark was incensed with anger and vowed to make life as difficult for Jennifer as possible.
Several months later, Alex decided to take a job with another company. Mark felt he was a shoe-in for Alex’s job. Mark interviewed for the job with his vice president, Christie, and came in second. Someone else got the job. Angered beyond belief, Mark stormed up to Christie’s office to find out why he didn’t get the job. Just as Mark approached Christie’s office, he saw Christie in the doorway. “Mark, I’d like you to meet your new group manager”. Mark came in the office and saw Jennifer sitting there. “Jennifer is our new group manager?” Mark asked incredulously. “Yes, she has really impressed us with her ability to relate to people and to work with partners to help us meet our objectives. We’re thrilled she’s on board. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from her”.
Mark felt as if he had been hit in the gut with a battering ram. The person that he publicly embarrassed as incompetent was the same person who had control over his career and was now the new favorite child of the organization. Mark couldn’t cope with the situation and ultimately took a lower-level job in another company since his toxic nature would not permit him to get a comparable job in his industry.
Mark’s ultra-competitive nature ultimately caught up with him. His incensed desire to equate success with him winning and someone else losing put him in the loser’s corner. He saw building relationships as something only the weak did. He had a wonderful opportunity to build a business relationship with Jennifer and figure out how he and Jennifer could get something done that was good for both companies. This story could have ended up very differently had Mark kept focus on the relationship with Jennifer and not viewed her as a chess pawn.
For you, how important are the professional relationships you build? I’m not talking about the surfacey “hi, how are you” cordialities; I’m talking about sincere relationships where you truly understand what matters to your colleagues, how you can help them, and how they can help you. When you take time to understand what matters to your colleagues you go a long way towards building your own credibility. I want to be very clear about what I am saying; I am not advocating that you simply do or align to whatever your colleagues want. Take that stance and you’ll be viewed as a sailboat adrift in the ocean without a sail. What I am advocating is that you understand where you and your colleague have similar and differing goals, leverage the similarities, and work to win-win on the differences.
My one nugget for you is thus: Mastering credibility is also about who you know, how you build relationships with those you know, and how you and your colleagues learn to help each other be more successful. Don’t put relationships on a back burner. Keep it in the forefront of whatever you do.