Losing to Win

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with several local pastors to network and encourage one another. We typically meet about 4 times a year and have developed really solid relationships that have served to build our various congregations. At our latest meeting we had the opportunity to learn from Pieter Van Waarde, founding pastor of Woodcrest Chapel and Side-Walk Consultants, about building ministry teams that last, a topic he wrote an entire book about. Piet is a great speaker and is able to engage leaders in a way that helps make a powerful, practical impact immediately. At our roundtable, he presented a critical aspect of being on a team in a way I had never considered before, the necessity of loss.

As a competitive person I love to win and hate to lose, but as it turns out losing is essential to victory, especially if you are looking for the win-win situations that ensure the greatest long term sustainable success. The reality is that you can’t win in anything without losing something. When we take time to practice or develop ourselves, we lose leisure. When we embrace discipline and order in our schedule, we lose spontaneity. When we close out the world and narrow our focus we lose our distractions. When we empower those around us through delegation, we lose control. Not losing is simply not an option, especially if you want to win again and again. To make this work though, you have to figure out the win.

We see this all the time in sports. The blocker who clears the path for the running back to score the touchdown. The point guard who settles for single digit scores while his teammates pile up the points. The batter who hits the sacrifice fly in order for the baserunner to advance. These are all examples of people who sacrifice something for themselves for the greater good of the team. They may lose the individual glory, but they gain a victory for the squad. It’s all about sacrificing for the win, so in a way without losing, success is impossible.

I have been a part of teams who had incredible talent and yet couldn’t win because we were missing this critical element. A group of individuals isn’t a team. A group of individuals working together towards a common goal is though, and a group of people working towards a common goal without regard for individual glory become champions. This is true outside the world of sports as well.

Families, businesses, non-profits, churches, and school administration teams, all work towards common goals. We get there faster if we make calculated decisions to lose for each other rather than seeking to make a name for ourselves. Of course it can’t always be about making sacrifices. If the players on a team constantly pass the ball without ever taking a shot, it’s a sure way to guarantee defeat. That usually isn’t the issue though. It’s when we are concerned with who’s name gets in the paper or how many pats one gets on the back when we really find the weak links on our teams.

So how do we build a lose to win mindset on our teams?

1. Teach it.

The Apostle Paul admonished the church in Ephesus to “Submit to each other out of reverence for Christ.” He taught them early on about the necessity of honoring one another for the good of the family and the church. He clearly described what the behavior looked like and even took time to honor people who practiced that behavior.

2. Model it.

Do as I say and not as I do is a terrible strategy for parenting, it’s also an awful way to lead. Jesus modeled servant leadership in John 13, and he clearly displayed more traditional aspects of leadership as well. When your co-workers or employees see you practicing these ideals they are more likely to follow suit.

3. Celebrate it.

We replicate what we celebrate. This goes for any behavior and serves as the basis for the theory of positive reinforcement in operant conditioning. It doesn’t have to be a gala event, mentioning their name and the action that took place in a meeting or taking time for a simple thank you are all the recognition that many people need. When you celebrate though, take time to celebrate as a team and be sure that everyone can enjoy the win.

4. Expect it.

If selflessness is a value that you embrace in your organization, then selfishness cannot be tolerated for very long. When it is discovered it needs to be addressed, corrected, and if it doesn’t change, that person may need an opportunity to work elsewhere. If what you are attempting to do is significant at all, then it is more important for the team to win as a whole than for just one member to shine.

Powerful things happen when we make a practice of putting others first. Our teams and our dreams have their greatest opportunity to thrive when we practice this type of selflessness and build it into our cultures. What can you do today to encourage this type of behavior? Please share your thoughts below.

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