Think about your peers at work. You work, eat, drink, and play together.
Now think about your peer having a huge victory at work. He or she gets the promotion – and you don’t. He or she makes the biggest sale, and you don’t.
Do you want to congratulate them – or crush them? Is that peer your co-worker, friend, or rival? Is he or she all three?
This month, we saw two women battle in the finals of the U.S. Open tennis championship. They are Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. They are friends, peers, and rivals.
They are battle-tough. They went on the court to face each other. They went off the court the same way they came on — loving each other as friends.
After the match was over, Sloane Stephens had won soundly with her rock solid play. She savored the victory, but did not gloat. Her foe and friend that day was power-slugger Madison who said, “I didn’t play my best tennis today and was disappointed…” and added, “…but Sloane, being the great friend she was, was very supportive.”
Indeed, Sloane was. When the match ended, Sloane smiled in her victory, then hugged and consoled Madison Keys for 19 seconds at the net. In turn, Madison in the face of defeat was congratulating Sloane. We rarely see this display in sports, or in life.
Madison Keys was disappointed with herself, yet happy for Sloane. Sloane was thrilled with victory and supportive of her friend, and on that day her foe.
Think about what we typically see on the biggest stages of life – it is rarely this kind of supportive display. Even at the tip top of business, we do not see it. Standoffs on all stages usually end with rivals being, well, rivals first. There can be respect for the foe, but not true caring as a friend who is cheering for the other person.
I will digress for one quick iconic example in business. It is about GE. It was announced in late 2000 that Jeff Immelt would become CEO in 2001, succeeding Jack Welch. Reporting at the time noted that “Immelt was one of three GE executives in the running for the top spot. The others were Robert Nardelli, president and CEO of GE Power Systems, and W. James McNerney, head of GE Aircraft Engines.” With Immelt’s hiring, Nardelli left GE to head Home Depot and then Chrysler; and McNerney left GE to lead 3M, then went on to lead Boeing.
There is nothing wrong with the fact that all three candidates for the GE CEO job wanted to lead companies and did. But, this is typical human nature. One peer gets the coveted job, the others leave. It happens when one person is anointed manager over all their work “friends.” Suddenly, you are no longer getting beers together after work. And, few of us have the options to just quickly get a new, better job like some top executives.
Now, admittedly, professional sports is not exactly like business. After all, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens will go on – each on top of the world with endorsements and more. They are each champions.
But, they are friends first. My mother always said, “You find out who your friends are when something good happens to you.”
Madison and Sloane are friends first. And that 19-second hug at net made all our hearts sing.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]