I’m going to put it out there right away, I like to win. Now most people reading that are probably sitting there reading this are probably saying, “Well, we all like to win.” Sure, that’s true, but I really like to win. For me, I’m pretty competitive so not only do I like the sweet taste of victory, I loathe the stench of defeat. I like winning and I hate losing.
That’s an important distinction that was sort of driven home to me today at my day job where something I worked on resulted in us not winning the business. Normally that wouldn’t bother me because like most businesses in our field our win rate on proposals is a healthy 30%-40%.
What bothered me is that we should have won.
We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The other people in our bid team, for the most part, were like, “Oh well, you win some, you lose some.” They trotted out the old, “We’ll get’em next time” lines.
Not me, I know why we lost and the client pretty much said we should have won. That’s the part that really irritates me – we should have won and we didn’t. I have no problem losing when your opponent just beats you, that’s life, you accept your defeat, acknowledge the better team won and work to be better next time.
When you beat yourself though, that’s not good. What’s unacceptable to me is being nonchalant about the outcome in those situations.
I remember when I was a kid and a hockey coach told me, “Developing a winning culture is really important. It sets an expectation that good results are the measure of success. The biggest factor in developing a winning culture is a hatred of losing.” As kids on that team, we had a saying, “Winning isn’t everything, but losing sucks.”
Those memories resonated with me today and it was something I’ve thought about a fair bit about throughout the evening.
I see so many people in their business that readily accept failure. They wear it as some kind of idiot club badge of honour. They talk about how failure is the path to success.
Those people are losers.
Sometimes we don’t succeed in life, that’s just part of the deal. Ideally, when you lose you end up learning something along the way about what went wrong and maybe even about yourself if you’re really lucky. But you should feel bad about it too. You should take the time to remember that feeling, let it burn into your brain so that next time around, you do everything you can to avoid it.
That’s part of developing the winning culture in your business. You learn from setbacks and failures, but you also take the time to remember how much the losing or the failure sucks and you work harder next time to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The one thing I’ve always had drilled into me is that you win as a team and you lose as a team. So for me, the analysis is never about blame even when it is clearly someone’s fault that you lose. Using the example from earlier today, the reason we lost was because one or two people in the bid team over-engineered the presentation and missed the mark. The lesson isn’t that those people are “bad” or they’re “losers”, the lesson is that next time around we’ll do things differently and we won’t make that mistake again.
What does irritate me personally though is that some of the people who drove the behaviour that resulted in the loss are the same people for whom this whole thing is “water off a duck’s back”. To me, that’s problem and if you see that in your business, you need to stamp that out quickly. That’s not resiliency, that’s indifference.
As you build out your team, you want to surround yourself with winners, you want to work with leaders who take accountability when they don’t deliver and you want to develop a culture where winning is the standard and constant improvement, even in defeat is the benchmark.
You should accept nothing less than that from yourself and your business.