We are programmed from an early age to believe that Winning and Losing are our only two options. Indeed, they seem to be the only alternatives that are recognised within any competition. You either won or.. you lost. However, this mentality serves to keep many from even getting out onto the field of competition. If they already believe that they have little chance in 'winning', then what is the point in competing? This thinking prevents them from participating, learning and growing. In fact, they could lose far more by not entering and completing a competition than by entering and failing to come first.
There is much to be said about those who enter a competition regardless of not being a first-place contender. They know this and enter anyway. In doing so, they are already leap years ahead of those that determine not to enter, not to try, simply because they could not place first. Those that strive simply to finish, to test themselves in an activity they are not exceptionally skilled or gifted in, are perhaps telling you more about themselves than those that ultimately place.
Recruiters need to start to recognise the value in considering candidates that 'finish', not just simply those that walked away with the trophies and awards. Think about what it takes to succeed in your organization. Although I often get the immediate response from clients that they are looking for 'winners', it quickly becomes apparent that the phrase 'winners' simply isn't applied to those that have 'won' a race or competition in the past. In fact, most organizations would look at defining a 'winner' as someone who demonstrates tenacity, someone who finishes what they start, regardless of the cost. It is often this stick-to-it-iveness that helps to define those who ultimately achieve the most in life and... those that don't.
Few competitions truly recognise the value in finishing versus only recognising those arriving first, but there are some. Marathons, for example, provide all who finish the race with a medal. They honour and recognise the achievement of someone completing 26.2 miles. Run, walk or crawl they did what those on the sidelines and those back home sitting on the couch did not. The achievement says a lot about them. The Iditerod, perhaps one of the most gruelling races of all, is one of the few that recognises the last place finisher with a special trophy, The Red Lantern. They know that the musher who finishes last showed the grit and determination to complete the race, to cross that finish line without giving up. It wasn't easy, giving up would surely have been easier, but their commitment and tenacity took them across the line. Recognition of those qualities is sorely lacking in business, which explains why those qualities are missing from many businesses. You get what you recognise and reward.
Start with your recruitment processes. The going in your business is likely not always an easy one. You want people that will hang with you through the tough times. Look for those that have done something difficult, something that challenged them and yet... they didn't give up. That is an ability worth hiring. It is a skill worth recognising and it is certainly a behaviour deserving of promotion.
Don't mistake winning with winners. Winning simply means you came first in a race. Winners are those that continue to drive and push, to make things happen. They are the people that cross the finish line long after others have quit. They don't have to come first, but they do have to finish.