What Collaboration Over Competition Really Looks Like

Women are experiencing a renaissance of sorts, as we catapult to the top of nearly every industry — politics, entrepreneurship, entertainment and education, to name a few. But even with all of the success we find ourselves achieving, an underlying problem still plagues us: the impulse to compete — unnecessarily, might we add — with the women around us.

Here at Common Assembly, our motto is “Collaboration Over Competition.” Think about that phrase. All too often, we women choose to tear each other down instead of build each other up. And the result? A breeding ground of mistrust, angst and thoroughly needless conflict. The choice to compete with those around us instead of champion them really gets us nowhere. In fact, research suggests that women who have a close group of other women supporters actually land more leadership positions with both higher authority and higher pay than their counterparts who lack this inner circle of female support. 

So what’s our holdup? Simple. We’ve been so conditioned to believe that there’s only one spot for a woman at the top, so by any means, we’ve got to be the one to take that spot. Historically, there’s only been room for one female presidential candidate, one CEO, one powerhouse media mogul…and the list goes on. That fear, however, is based on a false belief. It should be a no-brainer that more than one woman can be successful in a given field. But sadly, when we believe it’s a “her or me” scenario, competition will always win out over collaboration.

But if somehow we could change our tune and move into a genuine place of women supporting other women, think of what we could accomplish. One woman alone may have isolated power, but a cohort of women — that makes up a movement. Let’s dig into some ways we can embrace collaboration over competition to collectively increase our impact.

Start With Your Own Place of Worth

In order to feel free enough to be supportive of others, we have to first come to terms with our own place in the world. You don’t need to dim someone else’s star in order to brighten your own. Be kind to yourself, realize your tremendous worth, laud your strengths and accept your weaknesses. That is true self-growth, and it’s necessary to have in order to pursue collaboration over competition.

Find Your Network and Cultivate It

Networking can sometimes get a bad rap, because in many cases it boils down to essentially a business-card swap. But that doesn’t get you real relationships — it gets you a bunch of paper. Truly building a network requires time. So join an existing one and take time getting to know the members — or start your own if you feel like there’s nothing out there currently that has the environment you’re looking for. But the important thing is, once you make those connections, prioritize time to develop and nurture the relationships.

Magnify Others’ Achievements

It takes a secure person to not be afraid to take a step back and amplify someone else’s accomplishments. If someone does something great, give her the credit. Nominate her for an award. Celebrate her victories. As speaker Iyanla Vanzant said, “The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.”

Build a Puzzle…Together

You can’t be great at everything. You’re going to need other women to come alongside and balance your weaknesses with their strengths and vice versa. So be honest about your weaknesses; if you’re not, you’ll come across as defensive and closed off, and that gets a group absolutely nowhere. True collaboration allows you to outsource your weaknesses — for example, you may be the people person and she may be the analytical brain, and together you’re an unstoppable resource. Join forces and create a more beautiful puzzle than you ever could on your own.

Stacey Kole was managing editor of the national beauty and style magazine “Savvy” and is currently a freelance writer and editor based out of Phoenix, Arizona.