Since I can remember, I have always loved winning. When I was young, I played basketball. At age 16, I became semi-professional which meant the players would get money for each game we won. If we lost, we didn’t get anything. As a player on two different teams, I had to train eight hours a week and play two games every weekend. For me, the chase and the thrill of the potential win was like a drug.
I loved being part of a team; and I knew that winning wasn’t only down to me. It was always a team effort. They say you are only as good as the people around you, and that is so true.
Fast forward a few years, and I transferred my passion for winning to my work ethic in my field of business development. People in my company called me competitive, 'the girl that always needs to win'. And recently, I realised that I had, somewhere along the way, taken my competitiveness too far. I was competing with people within my own team. This is something I have had to work very hard to change to help make all of us more successful.
Winning is the big prize, but we don’t always win - especially in the industry I work in. Competition out there is fierce, and sometimes it just isn’t a commercially viable decision to compete or even to win, no matter the cost. The most important part is wanting to win.
Too many times during my career I’ve heard people say "Let's put a proposal in, but we won’t win". It is incredibly frustrating to me that people feel this way. What is the point in spending time and money writing a proposal you don’t want to win, anyway?
I remember vividly an opportunity in a booming construction region. It was a big project, and we knew that a team of engineers engaged during the first phase were in the preferred position as incumbents. Why would a client go through the trouble (and the lengthy process) of an RFP when they already had consultants on board? Did they just want to do a price check? Were they serious about potentially changing consultants or were they just going through a process imposed on them, as can often be the case with high profile or government projects?
This was an important project not only for the region in question, but for our local team and for our company as a whole. It was going to be the symbol for desperately needed regional renewal and it was being followed with great interest in the industry.
It was one I desperately wanted to win. No doubt.
But I was the only one. The strategy from the leadership team at the time was to put in a 'good enough proposal ' so that we could raise our profile with this client and, hopefully, be considered for the 'next job'. Don’t you love that? Let's chase a future job that doesn’t exist yet instead of putting all our efforts into a significant opportunity that is actually real.
Coming second to me is losing. Again, why even bid for it?
My manager was adamant we had to submit a proposal to come second. But in my mind, I changed my focus from merely wanting to win this project to showing him (and the others) the power of positivity - and that his strategy was misguided.
We didn’t get off to the best start on this bid. The bid team was deflated before we even started, they weren't committed to the task and it was hard to get anywhere at first. After I shared my plan and the ‘let’s show them’ agenda, the team was on board and things started to change.
We submitted our expression of interest, even as comments still kept coming: "Don’t bother doing too much, we wont get shortlisted". But we did. And that in itself was a small victory.
It quickly became a battle of wills between the determined positivity of the bid team and the fatalism of the seniors in charge. This fuelled our desire to win more than just the project but to show everyone they should have supported us. And to everyone's surprise and amazement, we got invited for an interview.
Our bid team got even tighter. We were closer than ever. It was us against the world, and we prepared exhaustively for our interview, and went with fire in our belly. In preparing for this interview, I remember we set out, not just to show who our company was, but to change our clients' mindset, to influence them to make the tough decision to change consultants by giving them an excellent reason to do so.
This is exactly how we decided to start the interview. Our introduction was, "You have an important decision to make today - you have to change consultants!" What a powerful intro! And we backed it up with our thoughtful analysis and detailed plan to help them make this significant project a success.
Against all odds, despite our initial strategy and the collective thoughts and comments that we would never succeed - we won the project!
The power of positivity and wanting to win is everything. And this is even more true with personal challenges.
At the age of 28 I was diagnosed with cancer. I was neither prepared for nor expecting it. Having lost my mother to leukemia when I was 21, I know firsthand the result of cancer and the devastating effects of the treatment. I had always said that if I was ever sick, I would not get treated. And yet there I was facing the decision: live or die. The difference between my mother and I is that I have always had a positive outlook on life. I believe that things happen for a reason, even bad ones. My mother, however, always saw the worst in things.
I was in a good space in my life when this happened. I was ready to go on a holiday back home in France. It was all booked and paid for. I hadn't seen my family in two years. And then I was asked to cancel my holiday to have treatment. I couldn’t see the urgency, until I was told that if I wanted to live, I didn’t have a choice.
I did what I was told. I decided that positivity was going to carry me through this. And I carried on working full time. I also partied like there was no tomorrow, and kept living life as normal. Going to the hospital every day for seven weeks taught me that I wasn’t the worst case 'in a bad bunch', and that was a positive realisation.
I had two operations and it left me physically changed. I spent the first few months afterwards finding a plastic surgeon that would operate on me. But no one wanted to. It was too risky for such a small change.
So then I decided to change my mind set. Instead of thinking every day that I am physically changed, I now think I am a cancer survivor.
My mother didn’t survive, I did. I truly believe positivity played a big part in this.
You always have a choice in life, and sometimes being positive is a very hard approach to choose. But being negative is not going to make things any better. So why spend your energy on being anything else but positive? It’s a winning formula, trust me.
So how much do you want to win?