I have somewhat of a unique situation. Our business has had somewhat of a monopoly on the niche market we cater to. Until now, we've been a growth enterprise that's enjoyed pretty solid market saturation.

But now there is a direct competitor that has started up. It seems inevitable that unless the other team is completely inept-- which it doesn't seem like it is -- our market share and growth trajectory will take somewhat of a hit as a result.

There are certain operational adjustments we will have to make, and are making, but the problem for me in my role of manager in this quasi creative, quasi analytical industry is how much or how little i should emphasize the competitor's work and presence to my team.

Certainly everyone is aware of them, and sometimes their presence can directly ruin certain of our projects on a day to day basis. It's disturbing and makes me upset, i can borderline freak out internally over some things, but yet i've kept calm on the outside and tried to come off that im not concerned about the competition. My instinct is to try and keep people cool and confident. I don't want them to obsess with the outside to the point they become preoccupied with doing the best job they can do.

But then i wonder if that falls short of communicating the urgency that's needed to make my people come to grips with the new reality of our competitive environment.

i have talked about the competitor with people during one on ones and such. Just to ensure they are aware of the newly heightened importance of our work, and to simply put it in the air that i'm not in denial and we should take be aware of them. 

Still, on the times when i do talk about the competitor with team members,  i do it calmly and somewhat dismissively. Would it serve a purpose to share my deeper concerns and borderline paranoia and anger? I know some of my own managers have done that to me lately, and i must say i really hate it, but it does get my attention.

I'm sure there's no hard and fast rule on how to hit this balance. But since im sure that for most all of you dealing with competiton is normal, i'd love to hear your approaches.

Finally, I'd note that even though we've been enjoying a monopoly-like climate until now, that's not to imply our work environment hasn't always been pressure packed. One of the reasons' we've been the only game in town is because what we do is hard to pull off, and not easily replicated.

svibanez's picture

Being honest with your people and sparing them the drama is the best approach, in my opinion.

I have some experience with a boss who went into "Chicken Little" mode every time we suffered a setback or a competitor made a significant advance.  That made it difficult to maintain my own motivation, and that trickled down to my directs.  I had to learn to ignore the "sky is falling" routine and look for ways to make myself and my team more focused and effective, and that helped us keep moving forward.

It has been said many times that, as managers, we underestimate the impact we have on our directs.  Leadership by example is a very powerful tool and I try to act the way I want my people to act.  I'm not always as successful as I'd like to be, but it's a standard I work hard to achieve.


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Doris_O's picture

I have similar issues, but for very different reasons. My organization is under a lot of stress lately and frequently in the public eye.  In general I try to make sure that we stay realistic, but positive and motivated. The challenge is to figure out how to encourage what Mark has described as eustress (spelling?) as opposed to distress. 

If you are doing O3s and know your people pretty well, it helps to adjust the message and approach to the individual, their communication style and what motivates them. I prefer to know the facts of any situation so I can make informed decisions as early as possible. However, I have a direct that get stressed out by knowing about certain types of challenges and that knowledge leads him to make bad choices, even though he will tell me he wants to know. So I've learned to be careful about what I brief him on and when; and have an action plan.

I also have a "no speculation" policy. I find that speculation about any situation is not helpful to anyone and usually leads to bad decision making. Focusing on the facts on hand usually helps lower everyone's stress level. 

In terms of competition, I try to have specific, defined periods of time when we check out and analyze our competition. The timing is tied to our overall planning and scheduling. We do our research, analysis, work up a top 5 list of takeaways for how we can improve what we do. Then we put everything else "in a box" and leave it alone. I don't look at what the competition is doing unless is it for a specific well defined purpose until the next research and analysis period. This helps reduce obsessively looking and worrying about things we can't change.

BTW - I really liked what Steve said about leadership by example and the impact we have on our directs.