Playing the Game

I’m not a big TV guy.  However, on occasion, I have followed some of the TV show “Survivor” seasons.  I think the draw for me is the struggle with the environment more than the personalities.  Dealing with a deserted island or braving the harsh environment is more appealing than the chatter, deceit and alliances.


One thing that has intrigued me about the show is how they refer to the struggle of competing and surviving as “playing the game”.  From my vantage it seems like more than a game.  Trying to survive in a desolated area, hungry, thirsty, doesn’t seem like a game to me.  I know- Hollywood is always there to rush in and save you if it gets too real!

So what is playing the game?  How do you win at Survivor?  You win by manipulation.

You know what you want.

You know how to get others to respond so you can get it.

You put the wheels in motion.

You get what you want!

Remember the great and powerful OZ?  The man on the levers behind the curtain?  This is how some view leadership.  You have the position and power and you know how to influence others to get you what you want.  I wish I could tell you otherwise, but this strategy often works.

And it’s a shame.  You can play with their heads.  You can apply pressure.  You can grab the levers.  The difference is that you will likely get what you want- but nothing more.

The real difference is found when you get more than you could imagine.  Much more than you thought possible.  How does this happen?

Rather than manipulate you inspire.  You loosen the reins and give your team the power to run.  The power to innovate.  The power to let those who do the work determine how is best to accomplish the task.

Inspiration is not intuitive.  We default to defining, controlling, manipulating.  Fear, tradition, and resistance to change will hold you back.  To inspire you need to model the behavior.  You need to believe in what you are doing.  You need to paint the picture for your group. You need to excite your group to march with you and you must march with them.

So what’s holding you back?  Are you stuck in default mode?  Are you ready to inspire rather than manipulate?  Here are some keys:

Define the goal:  Provide a clear understanding of the goal that you are trying to accomplish.  Why are you striving to make this happen?  What is the ultimate purpose of all of the work?

Personalize it:  Define the rewards for those who participate in the success.  What will I receive if we make this happen?  What is my piece of the pie?

Add milestones:  Give some intermediate goals to show progress.  This is the same reason you see landings on stairs.  A spot to rest and reflect for a minute.  A place to measure just how far you have come.

Unleash creativity:  Provide an environment where creativity is encouraged.  Let go of the wheel and let the team members determine how they will solve problems to reach success.

Celebrate accomplishments:  Have a victory celebration when you reach success.  Give credit to those who made it happen.  Acknowledge the efforts of your team and the roles that each played in the success of the project.  Give the credit to those who actually performed the work.

Inspiration provides an environment for exponential growth opportunities.  Are you taking full advantage of this power?  Or are you stuck in the command and control management style?  Maybe it’s time for you to step away from the levers?  Give inspiration a try.  It’s much better that way!

What do you think?  Do you know any manipulators who get away with it?  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! 


2 responses to “Playing the Game”

  1. I have found in life that we are all “salespeople” and “manipulators.” It just depends on what you are selling, or trying to convince others to think. If you’re trying to win a game of survival, its clear that your intentions are almost always to sell people on agreeing to give you what you need to survive. But if its life, we have the chance to “play by different rules” and build synergy and team work and collaboration toward a common good – applying the principle of “Rather than manipulate you inspire. You loosen the reins and give your team the power to run. The power to innovate. The power to let those who do the work determine how is best to accomplish the task.”

    If our job/career is a game, where there is a limited number of winners, then I think we will fall into the drama-fed gameshow mentality of “Survivor” and the manipulation it requires. But, if we are fortunate enough (or choose to) see our roles in life in a different light, to respect that we’re all “stuck on the island together” and no one person is going to win a million dollars, then nobody is going to want to watch that television show — and that’s fine with me, because I want to be a part of something bigger, more boring to the rest of the world, but far more important than being number one! I love serving and encouraging others! Great post!


    • Thanks Chris- good points! There is a book on my list called “To Sell Is Human” by Dan Pink. Haven’t got to it yet but similar message. Sales is a description of interaction. My view is that we often fail to properly paint the picture to inspire. Best way to sell is to really believe in what you are selling and communicate the message properly. We resort to manipulative tactics. Inspiration takes a bigger effort. However- it has much larger potential rewards! Thanks for your insight Chris!


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