MJ, LeBron, and Competition

August 6, 2010

Source: Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

Do you have a rival (or rivals) in your business? Either friendly competitors or professional adversaries who, if you don't top them in a cutthroat battle for greater annual sales volume, will make you lose sleep for the next few months? Does that rivalry make your performance better or worse?

I've been thinking about this in the wake of "The Decision," the televised announcement of NBA top dog LeBron James' choice to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers play for the Miami Heat a few weeks ago along with fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He explained that he made the move to win an NBA title that he wasn't able to get during the previous seven seasons in Cleveland. (For those of you who don't follow sports at all, these three players would make anyone's top 10 list - and a lot of top fives - of the best in basketball today. To put it another way, it would be something like Eric Clapton and Keith Moon leaving their bands to join The Beatles in 1968.)

Shortly after "The Decision," Michael Jordan, widely acknowledged as the greatest basketball player of all time (and possibly the most intense competitor in the history of pro sports), said that during his playing days, he wouldn't have "called up Larry [Bird], called up Magic [Johnson], and said, 'Hey, look, let's get together and play on one team.' ... I was trying to beat those guys." Additionally, former player and current basketball TV analyst Charles Barkley said LeBron will "never be Jordan. This clearly takes him out of the conversation."

Now, take your mind back to that rival (assuming you have one) I asked you to think about in the opening paragraph. Would you ever consider working collaboratively with this person? How would that affect your performance? Would it change your colleagues or consumers' view of you? For better or worse?

I've written before about building great real estate teams - incidentally, in the context of basketball. (This also isn't the first time Lebron's popped up in one of my blog posts.) But real estate has always been, fundamentally, a highly competitive industry, not a collaborative one. And a tough market, such as the one we've been going through for the past couple of years, tends to heighten competition among practitioners.

At the same time, from the NAR vantage, we see REALTORS® working together all the time to influence policy, share best practices, and improve the industry, which we believe is a good thing. Moreover, the younger real estate professionals I've interacted with seem to be much more cooperative and open in their approach to the business than their predecessors.

I'd like to get perspectives on this from real estate pros. Do you think there are generational differences in competitiveness? Do you think real estate is becoming, like the NBA, less competitive overall? Would an emphasis on teamwork and collective success over individual achievement be good or bad for the industry?

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