Workplace rivalries can be a good thing - Monocolumn | Monocle


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2 July 2012

One day last week a cake was delivered to Midori House: perfectly moist, indulgently rich and lovingly iced. With it there was a hand-written note, addressed to the presenter and producer of The Entrepreneurs complimenting them on a job well done. It was a bittersweet moment.

As a producer of another of Monocle 24’s weekly programmes, The Urbanist, I’ve sadly never received any congratulatory baked goods. And, I knew the boys from The Entrepreneurs were aware that theirs was the first. Lo and behold, within minutes there was an email in my inbox from Jonathan Openshaw. Subject line: “Fan club”.

“The people have spoken,” it read, sparking a chain of catty messages outlining the ways in which one or the other programmes was or was not best. And, it wasn’t the first time. They’re a bit cocky, the chaps that make that programme – but then again, maybe so am I?

In fact, it’s good to be a bit cocky if you can back it up with something you’re proud of. And it’s good to be a bit competitive with your colleagues, if it’s done with a sense of humour.

Monocle is a small company – to get things done we all need to muck in. With around 80 people, we produce a monthly magazine, a 24-hour radio station, operate four bureaux, five shops chock full of collaboration products, and a café, as well as host a number of special events around the world. From editor-in-chief to front-of-house, everyone in the building plays a crucial part in keeping the ship afloat and we all have to help each other out.

Step one is having a staff that all get along. They should be invested in the company, passionate about what they do but also shouldn’t dread the company Christmas party.

If you’ve got that, then you can start to get competitive with one another constructively. Almost nothing will push you more than a friendly rivalry: keeping you on a constant mission to out-do, raise standards, and be creative. But one where you also get satisfaction out the success of your would-be adversary.

The best type of competitiveness is one that’s paired with collaboration – the two are far from mutually exclusive. Instead, a duo can spur innovation and it keeps you from being too concerned with what some other radio station or magazine may be doing. Best to stick with your vision and make it work.

When something goes well (I think of Episode 36 of The Urbanist – our first attempt at a documentary format – as a particular success), you can ask the source (in this case, me – and Monocle’s editor Andrew Tuck) how to get it done. Expect something of the like on The Entrepreneurs in the near future. And no doubt it will be even better than what came before.

We take of advantage of the fact we’re a small crew. In small business, it’s easy to keep everyone on the same page. It’s slightly trickier to get them to work so closely together, socialise together and to also be ambitious but not territorial.

But, get it right and you’ll end up in a place where you can have your cake and eat it too.


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