No Contest: How to Outthink and Outperform Your Competition

led by Executive Coach Drew Lawson

March 2015

The biggest secret to success is to always have a competitive edge in everything you do. This seems to go without saying but staying ahead of the competition is less frequently practiced in business.

Removing the risk for failure results in a powerful advantage for your business and success. So how do you do that? You eliminate the primary obstacles causing you to fall behind your competition. Don't let these obstacles prevent your team from outthinking and outperforming your competition.

Join Building Champions Coach Dr. Drew as he takes you through the three disciplines every team needs to be a top competitor:

  1. See the entire field
  2. Culture wins
  3. There is no I in team

Access the tools mentioned in the presentation:

Download the Building Champions Life Plan Tool

Download the Building Champions Business Plan Tool

Webinar Transcript

Hello everyone out there. I want to really thank all of you for joining me on this webinar. I’m really excited to have this opportunity to be with all of you today. I had the fortunate opportunity to play on 2 CIF Championship High School teams with CIF player of the year, my senior year in high school and I was on 2 NCAA Championship college teams. I also competed internationally, representing the U.S. in water polo. You can see a picture of me when I was young up on the screen. Competing at this elite level has taught me life and business lessons that continue to bless me as an executive coach, an E.R. physician and a person. Today I’m excited to share a few of these lessons so that we can all be better competitors.

When you think of seeing a field most of you think of a football field or a baseball field, but when I think of a field I see this field. I see a field of water. I see a water polo venue, this is a venue from Stanford University where I went to college and this is a field I see. One of my bestfriends was an incredible competitor in and out of the water. He excelled at everything that he put his mind to. One of his competitive skills that he was renowned for was his uncanny ability to see the entire field. People would joke that he had eyes in the back of his head because he always knew where the open man was. He always knew where the ball need to go and he made spectacular passes. His awareness of the entire field was key to our successes is imperative as competitors that we step back and we are aware of the entire filed. We can only accomplish this if we pause and take the time to look out over our entire business, our industry and our lives. The athletes that could see the entire field would also be the ones who could create the winning opportunities because they knew what need to be done to succeed.

Unfortunately, I have also seen how not seeing the field can be very dangerous. As a senior doctor in training at Stanford, I had the opportunity to oversee the busy E.R. at San Francisco General Hospital. This place is a busy, busy inner city trauma center. I remember walking by the trauma room where a surgeon in training was sewing up a trauma patient and I noticed that the blood pressure marker was blinking as I walked by. I stopped and walked up to the surgeon in training who was very focused on stitching up the trauma patient, who had been almost completely scalped. This surgeon was not seeing the entire field as he was sewing. His patient was bleeding to death. The patient’s blood pressure was critically low and there was a very large pool of blood at the surgeon’s feet. Not seeing the entire field can be deadly to you and your business.

The key here with seeing the entire field is to create opportunities and awareness and we need to take the time to see the entire field before us and the only way to do that is we time out from the craziness, from the putting out the fires and the death by meeting office work. The best competitors take the time to develop their Life Plan and Business Vision so that they can gain awareness to succeed in life and business. With this awareness comes the ability to create winning opportunities.

How do we accomplish this? How do we accomplish seeing the entire field in action? How can we learn to see the entire field and in turn be able to create opportunities and heighten our awareness? It is with on-time. On-time is a term that we use in Building Champions to put aside time every week to pull our head out of the water and swim with our head up so that we can see the entire field. I urge you to schedule today on your weekly calendar time to see the entire field. We recommend a 4-hour block but many of my clients will take 2-hour blocks per week. This on-time is filled with reviewing Life Plans, Business Visions, collecting our thoughts, working on strategy, vision and other big picture projects. I keep a folder titled “on-time” in my computer and that folder I fill with projects that I will tackle during my next on-time opportunity. I strongly urge you to do that, to have that time every week to pull your head out from underneath the water and look out at the entire field.

Another key to being a successful competitor is knowing that culture wins. The way that culture wins is with attitude and with celebrating failure. Many of us have been on or seen teams that have the talent to win but the negative attitudes cause them to lose. We, as a culture in general, have a bad attitude. We don’t emphasize the positive. We have been trained to point out the negative. Great competitors possess consistent winning attitudes. I have also been blessed to be on teams that may not have had all the talent in the world but they saw all the missed shots and poorly executed plays as being steps towards success. These are the teams that saw failure as something to celebrate, knowing that each failure led to becoming a champion.

One way to create a culture that wins is by practicing the Gottman 5:1 rule. Dr. Gottman’s a clinical psychologist who has scientifically shown that successful relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments. In fact, he has shown that marriage relationships with a 5:1 ratio have an incredibly low divorce rate when compared to those with a 4:1 ratio. The ones with the 4:1 ratio have a divorce rate as high as 30% and those with a 3:1 ratio believe it or not have a divorce rate of over 50%. This has been shown to apply to our business relationships as well. To create a culture that wins, it is essential to turn up the volume on your positive attitude and compliments. The very lowest effective positive working relationship, the very lowest, are those with the 3:1 ratio.

I have heard it explained in this way, that everytime you have a negative interaction with someone, it affects them so much that it would take at least 3 positive interactions to shift your relationship to neutral. You deposit 1 coin with each positive interaction into your relationship bank while you withdraw 3 coins with each negative interaction. How well is your bank doing in your key relationships at work and at home? Are you running on empty? It doesn’t take great effort to deposit a positive in an interaction. It could be really simple. It could be as simple as a “Well done” in the middle of hearing a report or “What I like about that idea is–” in response to a great idea or any idea or it could be a 10-second expression of appreciation or gratitude. Instead most of us as parents, spouses, leaders tend to take the positive things for granted. We assume the other person is already aware that they have done a good job and that we have noticed and appreciate them. This means that every time we open our mouth to say something, the other person is already cringing and on the defensive because the relationship bank is empty and because they have already anticipated a negative.

Dale Carnegie’s famous phrase, “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” Compliments are key but we unfortunately criticize, condemn and complain far, far too much. We seem to talk to people only when there are bad things to say. Just yesterday I watched my youngest son’s flag football practice and I heard his coach say, “You’ve guys are zero for 5 on pass completion so far today.” He went on to say, “You guys are being shown up by a third grader playing defense.” I don’t think the kids need to hear that if the coaches even know that he’s really, truly saying these negative things, but we really need to take the time this week in our offices, in our work places to really listen and observe how many positive to negative comments are flying around. I guarantee you the results will really surprise you and shock you.

Another way to win, when I’m wearing my doctor hat I can see this competitive advantage of the 5:1 rule. My nurses and staff work more efficiently and are more productive if I lead with a compliment rather than a critique. Create a system to use consistently praise and compliment your team. Brainstorm ideas. Think about a way that you can create a system that consistently praises and compliments your team. We have something called a “drop in the bucket” in our emergency department. There’s a small bucket and there’d be paper drops in a bin next to them that you see. Any time that you want to compliment and praise someone, you’re encouraged to fill out one of these drops, explain a great thing that the person did and then you deposit that, slip a paper that dropped into the bucket. I ask you now, what’s a system that you have at work place that to give a drop in the bucket? What’s the system that you can use to help your team use the 5:1 rule to your advantage?

The other action to make you and your culture more competitive is to celebrate failure. I bet it’s rare that you ever see these 2 words put together: celebrate failure. Very few times that you see these 2 words put together and it’s unfortunate. I think of the Toyota assembly line end-on cord as a great example of celebrating failure. Anyone on any assembly line in the world is encouraged to pull the end-on cord to stop the entire assembly line if they see a failure in the process. When they do, the team gathers around to learn from the failure. You can see the cords and these are the cords, and they’re encouraged whenever they are making these cars to pull the cord. Everything stops, the assembly line stops and they take the time to really understand what went wrong. I would ask what it would look like in your team, in your culture to celebrate failure. What are the things that you can do in your culture to allow failure to be celebrated?

The next thing that I really think is key to compete at the highest level and be successful is to know and communicate with your team. This picture you see on your screen, a picture of a water polo venue, is a picture taken from Cuba and I’m reminded of the power and comfort in team to give you a competitive advantage when I recall when I was in Cuba playing for the U.S. water polo team. We’re in the quarter final game against Italy and one of the Italians was literally punching me repeatedly as I tried to drive past him to get open. As I got out of the pool at the end of the quarter, one of my teammates leaned down and said, “Hey, I’ll take him out for you.” Now I don’t recommend this approach but it’s certainly is a competitive advantage if your team has your back and if each of your team members know that you have each other’s back. There’s a significant competitive advantage in knowing that. Any team that knows each other’s strengths and proper roles on the team and can speak each other’s language is likely to be on the winning side, so team is a pivotal part of success in competition.

A great way to have your teammates’ back is to know them and be able to work with their strengths and to speak their language. I met a head coach for a college football team who’s really excited because he recruited a top running back for his team. When this kid showed up to the pre-season, the coach would encourage him using words such as win, compete, succeed, dominate, but these words seem to go on deaf ears with this new star recruit. So the coach wasn’t sure how to proceed and how to motivate this new star recruit. This coach had this young man and his entire team take an assessment like DISC. The DISC assessment showed that unlike his coach, lo and behold his coach was a high D on the DISC assessment and this running back was a high C on the DISC assessment. If you’re not familiar with the DISC assessment, it is a behavioral assessment that we use at Building Champions to help know each other better. It’s a spectacular tool to work with teams and individuals. It helps us to speak each other’s behavioral language to know ourselves better and to know each other better and therefore to lead better.

I like to simplify things and I’ve heard it said for those of us who aren’t familiar with DISC and even for those who are familiar with DISC, a fun way to kind of remember each of the behavioral styles in DISC is to think of bird types. What I usually do is when I think of a high “D” type behavior type, I think of an eagle. Someone who would be a high “I” behavioral type, I think of a parrot. A high “S” behavioral type, a dove and a high “C” behavioral type is an owl. In this example with this coach and his new star running back, the coach’s behavior type is a high D which is dominant and he used the language, he spoke the words that often times high D-type people will speak. If you were thinking of a bird, he’d be an eagle, but he needed to speak to his running back. The way to speak to his running back, who is a high C- behavioral type in the DISC profile or an owl if you’re thinking of a bird, he needed to speak in the language of an owl. His coach proceeded to talk owl to him or to talk C to him with words such as calculate, analyze, detail and perfection. His recruit came alive. He was able to motivate his recruit using his DISC behavioral style to have incredibly successful season. So if you don’t know your team’s DISC, you’re at a distinct competitive disadvantage. The DISC assessment is a simple, elegant tool to help you speak your teammates language.

Another key to a successful team is to over communicate. I can often determine, when I’m watching water polo now and even back when I was playing water polo, which water polo team was going to win the game very early on in the game by listening to the amount of chatter. The teams that were talking and over talking and chattering the most were consistently the team that was likely to win so it’s definitely a competitive advantage to over communicate.

This is a picture of me, this is actually from last weekend before our level 1 trauma arrived in the emergency department that I work at. The trauma patient that we were waiting for had decided to pick a fight with a guy in the car. Our patient was standing in front of the other person’s car pounding on the hood. The guy in the car was mad enough to press down on the gas pedal and run over our trauma patient, crushing his pelvis. The lesson that day was clearly not to pick a fight especially with a guy in a car. Our patient still survives and is recovering.

To successfully save this patient’s life and the lives of countless trauma victims, we all stand in our designated places and communicate what our roles are. In this case, I always stand at the head of the bed to control the airway and the trauma surgeon stands next to me on my right. Before a major trauma, the trauma surgeon or myself will announce what is everybody’s role. We all know what the roles are. We know where we’re supposed to stand, we stand in the same spot every time but it’s a review. It sounds repetitive but over communication leads to a tremendous competitive advantage. Over and over again, very simply even though it seems route and repetitive, it will save lives so we communicate to each other what are our roles today, what are we going to be doing today and that over communication saves lives and will be a distinct competitive advantage for you and your team.

As I continue to build my coaching muscles over the years, I found the more I communicate the better coach I am and the better doctor I become. One trick that I use to over communicate for a competitive advantage is to use what we call close-loop communication. In a trauma situation where it’s loud and hectic, it is imperative that we administer the right medication and the right amount so we use close-loop communication to do this. Last week for instance, when I wanted 20 mg of etomidate and 100 mg of succinylcholine, I looked directly at the pharmacist and said I need 20 mg of etomidate and 100 mg of succinylcholine. She then said, “20 mg of etomidate and 100 of succinylcholine,.” I said “Yes, 20 mg of etomidate and 100 mg of succinylcholine,.” The medication and dosage was then repeated again by the nurse as she administered the medication to the patient. This close-loop communication process is an incredible competitive advantage and saves lives and will save your business in many ways.

In a business setting, it may not look like the diagram and the close-loop communication diagram but it might be simply a quote that says, “I heard you say,” and this can be done simply. It is a very effective way to get clarity and to really know what the other person is trying to say. Often when you repeat what you heard them say, the other person will say, “Actually I was actually saying this and this,” and it’s amazing how often times we don’t clearly understand what the other person is trying to say. The key is to remain curious and open to what the other person’s response is because it’s often not what you heard them say at all and yes you are probably thinking this, this method is great to use in all of your relationships. When I teach on this and other methods of communication at the hospital, I point out that this method has been really helpful in my relationships not just at work but with my wife, friends and kids.

Another team competitive advantage that I use at work consistently is we use something called “huddles” and it’s a very effective tool in the emergency department and trauma room as a key to communicating and over communicating in these situations that we’re in. The way we use this is we huddle at a set time at least twice per day to check in, we get clarity on whatever our deliverables are for that day and that shift and we will call audible huddles throughout the day to help with critical situations and when a course correction is needed in our management of our patients. I would ask and challenge you again, this is a great competitive advantage is to use a huddle in your business situation once a day, twice a day and when there are critical situations in business. It’s a really helpful and useful tool to gain a competitive advantage.

I hope that these lessons that I’ve learned from competing at a very high level at water polo and by working in a really high volume trauma center will really bless you and help you in gaining a competitive advantage in your work space. If you have questions, you could see on the screen that you can reach me at There’s much more to say but in our little bit of time that we have remaining, I would just ask that if you have any questions you need clarity, please reach out to me, reach out to us at Building Champions because we’re here to serve you and help you be as competitive as possible in the work that you’re doing. We really appreciate your time.