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How Playing to Win (vs Playing Not To Lose) Made All The Difference

This concept comes from A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin’s book called Playing To Win. It was all about how strategy really works, based on Proctor & Gamble’s success.


Most recently it was the topic of conversation on a team meeting. It was advice, or was it an admonition, from our manager.


As a single mom for so many years, I can confess I spent a good part of my career playing not to lose. My goal was to protect the revenue stream at all costs. That often meant I stayed quiet when I could’ve spoken up. It meant I went along with challenging colleagues when I should’ve given some honest feedback. It meant I said yes to jobs or assignments when I would’ve rather declined.


Except that one time. Recently I was asked by a group of younger employees how to say no to a job they didn’t want, without having it blow back on you. I recalled a time when the leadership team wanted me to take over a particular program. I really didn’t want to do it and I knew if I said yes, I’d be signing up to manage it for a good couple of years. I really wanted to program-manage another area, and said so, but there was no existing role for that work.

I said no anyways. Was I scared? Of course! Saying no is really hard, not just in the moment, but as you carry the stress of not knowing what the repercussions might be.

Five months later they created a role that was exactly what I wanted, and I was so glad I was free to go for that role, and hadn’t said yes to the other role. It’s not an exaggeration to say that everything in my career pivoted after that decision.


Try this ONE thing


Playing to win was saying no and trusting the right role was out there, and if it wasn’t, I would still be okay.


Playing not to lose would’ve been saying yes to the wrong role for me. Playing not to lose always comes from fear and feeling the need to protect.


Can you find an example of where you are playing to win? Please share it; we all need inspiring stories.


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