During the past decade, many leaders have begun to realize that both teamwork and competition are critical to success. How can these two traits coexist in the same office? It seems like a blatant contradiction. However, for a business to thrive, its leaders need to encourage a balance of coworker collaboration and a drive for personal growth.

As an advisor, I have seen some companies that promote either teamwork or competition, but not both. Time and time again, the absence of these traits show in both the team's performance and the quality of their work.

It's essential that you promote teamwork through cross-functionality, greater transparency, and a laser-sharp focus on shared goals. All of these are the traits of an efficient and communicative team.

At the same time, we're operating in a hyper-competitive world where each individual needs to play at the top of his or her game to grow. Without incentive or goals for employees to strive towards, people will begin to wonder if they could have a better future somewhere else.

Does your company lack these elements? Here are four suggestions as to how you can successfully encourage teamwork and competition amongst your team:

1. Establish open communication

Both you and your employees should talk with a variety of coworkers, not just those with whom you work on a daily basis. To truly learn about the business beyond the scope of your job, you need to approach them in an informal and approachable manner.

As a leader, you should be inquisitive, read whatever you can about your company, and have lunch with different people every day. In a word: Network.

I recently saw an excellent example of this in a company that had poor internal employee communications. Someone in the HR department had the idea to create an employee newsletter--with a clever wrinkle. They asked the employees to submit articles and then choose those that were most relevant and on point. The first issue was a great success, and I'm sure more employees will engage on this in the coming months.

While this example helped improve online communication, these solutions should be practiced in person on a regular basis.

2. Invite proactive problem-solving

Employees can either do their jobs and keep their heads down or anticipate the needs of the business and speak up. Encourage your employees to become part of a project or any activity where they can interact with other members of your company for the betterment of the company.

My first job after graduating from business school was as a financial analyst at a computer manufacturer. I could not understand why, in such a large company, the individual districts did not have their own profit and loss statements. I offered to take a stab at doing this (even though I had no idea how to start).

The good news is that I wasn't alone. I had made friends with several other colleagues in my first few months and as a team, we figured it out and created the first profit and loss statements for districts in the company. With the power of teamwork and a competitive goal in mind, we were able to benefit the business as a whole.

3. Never say "I" or take personal credit

You may be the smartest or hardest working member of the team, but when asked about your experience, you should say, "It was a team effort and everyone involved contributed." This counts for both leaders and junior-level employees.

In the previous example, I was not yet self-aware of this concept. My boss only congratulated me, and I happily took the credit. I didn't realize that I had done my teammates a disservice.

When I realized my mistake, I personally thanked the others for their help and attempted to make amends. After that, I made a commitment to never say "I" again.

4. Encourage fun

Ironically, this is one that many employees struggle with the most: They're working long hours and building their careers. Find ways to have fun with work and the people around you--it makes for better days at the office and better outcomes for your career.

When I was starting my career, I spent more time in my office than anywhere else. But to say it was all drudgery would be a lie.

Alongside my fellow eager professionals, we tackled the business world one day at a time and built lasting memories, even during the most difficult of situations. Yes, competition drove us, but collaboration helped us survive.

Published on: Mar 16, 2017