I’m naturally an introvert so networking hasn’t always come easy to me. When I started my business though I knew it was crucial so I started to attend different women in business groups for support and socialising. One group I attended had different groups set up across the city but the one closest to me already had a coach in it and they had strict rules on non competition, “We’re only allowed one coach per group” they told me.
Now I know many coaches who are all very different; business coaches, fitness coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches and the list goes on – why would these people be competing I thought? Surely this would be a space for collaboration? It’s like an author who writes kids stories versus an author of travel guides – the same job but different audiences. Some of my good friends are coaches who do exactly what I do and collaborating with them on pieces of work has been some of my most enjoyable and successful events – whilst we all share a mission of empowering women to be their best we do this in our own unique voice.
It got me thinking about competition and the behaviours it drives – that there’s only room for one of us, that we should operate in isolation, that its every man (and woman) for themselves.
When I put on big events and invite other women to speak on the stage people say; ‘but what if they steal your customers?’ The speakers I invite to share the stage are generally women who want to empower women, just like me – that’s the whole point. This work enables me to provide a platform for these women to showcase their work but also helps my audience hear different perspectives that may resonate. Yes, it may also mean that someone may become a follower of them not me, off the back of my own event! But in all honesty it’s because the connection has been made in a way I could not have achieved. If I don’t resonate with that person they are not my customer and it’s great I’ve been able to help someone else in the process and connect them to someone who does – we can’t expect to always resonate with everyone.
One woman who came and spoke at my recent Auckland launch confessed afterwards – I was worried our subject matter was too similar and given my topic was so close to yours I thought ‘shall I even get up and give my talk now?’ – she did and it was great, it resonated in a totally different way and reinforced some key messages around authenticity we both share. However, she delivered it in a totally different way and told her own story which of course will always be different person to person. In this example we’re both women who’ve quit our corporate jobs to focus on empowering women to tap into their authenticity and use mind-set to succeed – pretty similar yet collaborative rather than competitive.
This has been a lesson I’ve had to learn. A younger me totally brought into competition, I wanted to be first and prized my success on winning at all costs. I played a lot of sports and even as part of the team would strive to be the stand out individual, top of the class. To win player of the year even though there were eleven other plays in that team. At work I believed I had to look after number one and focus on my own success to make sure it was me that won. It’s not that I wasn’t competitive rather that I’ve learned how we succeed together and now put collaboration first that we can live in a world where everyone wins.
I believe we’ve been taught for too long to compete, that it’s about survival of the fittest and that our success needs to be at the expense of someone else’s.
It comes from a place of fear, of threat, of insecurity and can lead to poor behaviour that is unsupportive – you’ll have all heard of examples of women who move up the career ladder only to pull the ladder up behind them rather than supporting others to do the same.
It is at odds with the lift as you climb approach I strongly believe in – where we help and support each other in a way we can all succeed. We can only do this though when we feel secure in ourselves, aligned to our values and believe in our product/service.
It’s the same reason some of my on-line course material is freely available, do people rip it off? Of course they do, like most things that are available on line these days it gets copied. However I’m comfortable and confident in the message I have, the product I deliver and from that comes a place of strength and support rather than fearful competition. Despite who copies my work they will never deliver it the way I do because they are not me and that’s what’s special about us all.
No-one will ever tell your story the way you do, no-one will ever deliver your content the way you do and this is what makes each of us powerful and we are so much more powerful together than we are apart.
It’s why I’ve put so much energy behind Women Support Women and will continue to do so because I believe we all have a gift to share and even those with similar gifts will all resonate with difference audiences and supporting each other doesn’t just help us but those we serve too.