Why Competitors Will Make You Question Everything

In business school we teach SWOT analysis. Know what your competitors are doing so you can outsmart them.

There’s power in benchmarking, and many a company has met their demise by a sudden competitive surprise.

But any time your energy is focused on what OTHER people are doing instead of honing your craft, you’re at risk. Watching your competition puts you in the passenger seat of their story, instead of blazing your own trail.

When I was a competitive swimmer growing up, I had a terrible habit of looking for my competitors in the lanes beside me every time I turned my head to take a breath. Out of complete frustration, my coach threatened to move me to the lane next to the wall if I didn’t stop. From that lane, I wouldn’t be able to see any of my key competition, and it wasn’t exactly considered the rock star lane–I told you, I don’t have this humility thing licked. I stopped looking. You guessed it, that streamlined movement was just what I needed to move from second to first in many of my races.

I was reminded of this phenomena this week. Mike (not his real name), a consulting client, was going for an important promotion. He’d spent weeks honing his strategy and materials. He’d identified all the right stories to share, and had nailed the first interview. He’d gotten great feedback and was preparing for round two when he discovered another smart and popular guy had just put his hat in the ring. Confidence level went down five notches and panic set in. Naturally, he began rethinking his strategy.

When you’ve been preparing for weeks, the day before is not the time to rethink your plan, particularly from an unsettled frame of mind.

A few hours later I got this email:

“…I am going to take sage advice from the Disney movie my daughters watch, Ice Princess. “Put in ear plugs about your competitors. If they do well it will shake your confidence and if they do poorly it will make you cocky.”

Amen.

Play your own game the best you can. Leave it all on the field. Stop worrying about everyone else.

How to Outsmart The Competition

This is part 6 of a 7 part series on outsmarting the competition. In case you’re just catching up.

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

4. Help your team get smarter

5. Be easy to follow

Collaborative Competition: The Extraordinary Power of Trash Talk

Collaborative competition inspires. Seeing “them” inspires “us.” Competition makes work fun. Unless, it doesn’t. Stay on the right side of trash talk.  Create collaborative competition to inspire your team.

A New York State of Mind

I ran a 2000 person sales team so did the guys in New York. They were the “ones to catch” on some metrics. In others we led the way. We studied their playbook. They studied ours. We both sent “spies” to learn more. We left voice mails talking trash. My cellphone rang tunes of “New York State of Mind” and “I love New York” reminding every one of the competition.

Of course, the vision was bigger. Competition was play. We traded “players.” Benchmarking became a game. Both teams grew. The bar rose. Both teams achieved. Work was fun.

Collaborative Competition

  • inspires
  • unifies
  • finds fun
  • sparks creativity
  • improves
  • shares

Unhealthy Competition

  • hides
  • loses
  • stifles
  • diminishes
  • creates stress

Creating Collaborative Competition

“”If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.”
~unknown

Leverage competition to drive collaboration. Make collaboration a competitive game.

Here’s how…

  • Align intent
  • Interact
  • cross-pollinate
  • Share playbooks
  • Mandate sportsmanship
  • Speak well
  • Talk a little trash
  • Keep a scoreboard
  • Celebrate small victories