Seven Ways to Succeed Again
Failure is hard, but maintaining success is harder. Things get clear when the house is on fire.
Obstacles pull strong teams together. Crisis creates focus and urgency. There’s nowhere to go but up.
Adversity brings out the best.
Success brings out the worst.
Success, apart from skillful leadership, is deadly. There’s nowhere to go but down.
7 dangers of success:
- Pettiness, gossip, greed, and jealousy.
- Protectionism. You used to try stuff. Now you don’t dare.
- Elitism. We are so awesome!
- Repeatism – trusting in the past to create the future.
- Overconfidence and self-congratulation.
- Easing up and letting down.
7 ways to succeed again:
- Integrate new, young leaders. The good ole boys club revels in past assumptions. New leaders kick assumptions in the pants.
- Make decisions. Decision-making slows during success. How much time would you take if the house was on fire?
- Eradicate whining; seek solutions. It’s easy to whine when things are going great.
- Engage in cross-functional activities. Create teams of people who haven’t previously worked together.
- Focus on values. Fear of losing ourselves keeps us from pressing forward. Values keep organizations grounded during heady days of success.
- Passionately pursue the future by establishing new goals and defining new wins. Resist the temptation to ease off the gas.
- Take more risks not fewer. You can afford it. Protecting what you have preserves the past.
Leading after success is your greatest leadership challenge. You completed a successful project. Profits are up. But, people let down. You’re yelling speed up while they’re saying ease up. You sound like the boy crying wolf.
Thanks to Bill Hybels, who got me thinking about this subject with his presentation at the Global Leadership Summit.
What are the dangers of success?
How can leaders best lead when things are going great?
Very insightful. I’m going to approach my day like the house is on fire to see if that helps shorten the decision making process.
Thanks and best wishes!
Well sorta backwards for me once again.
What you give you receive, LAW
So Adversity begats more Adversity UNLESS
Thorough inventory of thought and actions taken and CHANGED.
Success begats Success. What happens to me is when I FEEL I am succeeding I STOP doing the things I was doing that got me to that feeling. Ooopsie! My bad!!!!!!!!!!!!
I mistake Success as THAT MOMENT instead of what I was doing that got me to that feeling.
What to do then? At that MOMENT IMMEDIATELY set another goal to shoot. for. After a few seconds to reflect on how good it feels to get a clearly defined agreed upon goal.
Failure is not hard, easiest thing in the world, just do nothing or repeat the same ole crap that is delivering you that result.
Winning is hard cause you have to KEEP GOING. I want a destination, not a longer trip for goodness sakes. You?
Success is FABULOUS! When the Ravens won the Super Bowl last Feb I think it was did they look like they were experiencing the term you used above Dan, “deadly”? Did not look like that to me.
It is the CHOICE NEXT in my experience that is deadly. Regroup, set next goal and get after it or rest on my laurels? For ME the resting on the laurels is where the potential problem truly lies. Not success, goodness, that is the proof what I was up to was TRUE!!!! How in the world world of sports is that deadly?
Not sure if it is this Hybel character Dan or you but this young old thingy is a bummer. A human with an open mind for me is number one, not young leader or old.
You can’t teach a young dog a new trick if he/she has a closed mind.
And the reverse, you CAN teach an old dog any trick a dog can learn if they have an open mind and the determination to stick with it till they get it.
Maybe you will have an epiphany with the old/young analogy.
Decisions slow when I rest on my laurels. That is why it is a great idea to have a team of connected why’s. If one of the why’s is we all believe resting on our laurels is gloomy one of the group will likely notice the twouble if it is creeping into the conversation.
Focus on beliefs, values are included in beliefs.
Whiners whine regardless, just the way they think the world makes sense, just let them whine. Thing is between the whining can they make a useful contribution to the agreed upon goal?
Love number 6!
There are no dangers of success, look it up in the dictionary. There is danger AFTER success if one chooses to bask in their own glory instead of getting to setting the next goal.
For me great leaders have already done what they can to lead the team to the result they got. In my opinion their job is while his connected why team is busy getting done what is right in front of them he/she is looking forward and setting goals for what is NEXT!
They already chose the right team based on what they believe, connected why’s, developed goals and plans and THEN LEFT HIS GREAT PEOPLE ALONE TO DO THEIR THING!
Just like my opinion MAN!
Anyone wants to see what I am talking about as perfectly in motion as I have ever seen?
20 million to 1.5 billion
15% annual dividend to shareholders
72% employee satisfaction
Truly Human Leadership produces results these types of results.
Shifterp back to the present
I appreciate you sharing your take on this topic.
I take full ownership of the young leader ideas. I wouldn’t hire a single upper level manager or leader who wasn’t committed to recruiting and developing young leaders.
Old isn’t bad. The two main functions of experienced leadership are to engage in organizational leadership and develop new, young leaders.
Thanks again for your perspective on this topic. I won’t reshare mine, which is above.
I heard a great suggestion for mentors. Choose one twice your age, and one half your age to balance the input for risk taking versus proven strategy. Regardless of the exact mix, I think it makes great sense to have a mix of mentors from across generational lines. Sharpens the learning.
It’s cool Dan, everybody has their opinion, even a right to it.
Your definition of what the older folks do….according to who? Young ones, according to who?
What I am asking is if this is a Leadership model or your opinion based on what works for you? Just curious.
My idea of who Leads is the folks who Lead. Age is not a factor. Willingness is.
I would most adore giving u the chance to work with some of the young closed minded people I have met. Maybe then you might see what I am getting at.
Thanks for sharing, interesting.
SP back to the present
I believe that one of the more profound things you wrote above, is that “Things get clear when the house is on fire.”
That’s so true. And as we build success, focus can suffer a bit. Still, personally, I would not say that success “brings out the worst.”
With a bit of personal accountability, and will, we can bring focus where it doesn’t occur naturally. I think of examples like the NY Yankees Derek Jeter, or Benjamin Zander, or Nat Geo’s Janice Holly Booth—among other examples of individuals who took success in stride, and doubled down with class—and continue to reach.
But let’s get to your questions, and in leadership, I see your point.
One danger of success is right there in our mental model of it!
Many treat it as though it is some kind of arrival! But success, handled as a way of BEING instead of a state of ARRIVAL, will celebrate a milestone, and then move on to enjoying the continuing JOURNEY of success.
If I am full of optimism about where I am going, then I am success-full. If I am appreciative of where I am now, and who I am now, and I am full of new dreams and desires and am eager to get up and get out and live life, I am success-full.
If I can continue to align and focus my choices in support of my personal and co-created goals, I am success-full.
If am willing to apply the fullness of my abilities and who I am to continue to grow and expand, I am success-full.
This kind of success is more verb than noun. This kind of success results in what others call success, but I simply call a “waypoint” in a success-full life.
This kind of success-full attitude is what leaders might exemplify, to increase their success and the success of their teams.
It’s a continuum, not an arrival. 🙂
Love your inclusion of success as journey NOT destination. It’s so relevant to this conversation.
I hear you on the examples of individuals who took success in stride. As you might guess, I think they are exceptional.
In a small way, we both agree that success requires intervention or it turns to failure…”with a bit of personal accountability” is an intervention that, in my experience goes beyond just a “bit.”
As always, thanks for your insights.
Thanks, Dan… yes, we agree on that intervention point. In fact, I’d say we must make it an ongoing practice. 🙂
What are the dangers of success?
Dan I think the greatest danger to success is complacency. People let down their guard, no longer search for the exciting leading edge, and forget that they have won because of their customers/ clients along with their talents. They stop focusing on what really matters.
How can leaders best lead when things are going great?
Keep listening to your peers, competitors, customers and team members.
Look at what’s going on outside of your silo.
Take care of yourself.
Always look for ways to bring your best game to every situation.
Be curious about what’s happening at the leading edge of your industry.
And… keep learning.
Thanks Martina. Ka-wonderful!
Love the ideas that center on staying in touch. Success can invite us to get out of touch. Stay connected with customers and get out of your silo are two of my favorites. Thanks for the insights and challenge.
Two or three points on this post. First, and I think foremost, is the notion that “things get clear when the house is on fire.” On this point, I’d have to disagree. We get a clear signal of danger, and we get a shared sense of urgency. Those factors do often lead to more rapid collective sense-making and decision-making. But are we able to do a meaningful analysis in the moment of crisis, and choose a path to survival and success?
Not really. In a time of crisis, two things happen. Our ability to perceive and make sense of what’s happening is often significantly narrowed. Then, the information we are using to make what may literally be life-and-death decisions, is often incomplete, inaccurate, and changing moment-to-moment.
For those unfamiliar with the story, read about the 1949 Mann Gulch forest fire in Montana. Conditions changed, and past knowledge/experience failed. The leader, in the very literal “heat of the moment” ordered a counter-intuitive tactic. But his team refused his direction. The leader survived. Two lucky members ran but found a way out. Te rest relied on what they thought they knew- deliberately ignoring their leader- and died.
The real enemy of success is complacency. We stop scanning for emerging disruptive forces. We stop adapting to changing markets or technologies. John Kotter teaches leaders to create and sustain a “sense of urgency.” Learn to be mindful and adaptive BEFORE the house burns down, and you’ll have a better chance of survival and success.
Interesting how you first suggest that in a time of crisis our ability to perceive and make sense of what’s happening is often significantly narrowed, and that the information we are using to make what may literally be life-and-death decisions, is often incomplete, inaccurate, and changing moment-to-moment.
Then you go on to site a “counter-intuitive” success, which sounds to me more like a counter-factual, intuitive decision that actually succeeded on the wildfire example you cited.
“When the house is on fire” in either a real or metaphorical sense, we may make a mistake in how we handle things, but the direction and desire is absolutely clear: survival. The burning platform brings willingness to make extreme efforts to stay alive, and after that, flourishing usually requires some self-accountability and discipline. In the example you gave, focus, and intuitive, gut-level choice seems to have carried the day.
But as far as complacency is concerned, when we are comfortable, we might find ourselves deluded into believing less focus and effort is required to, well, stay comfortable, and we lose momentum, and this point you made well, I feel. 🙂
Much appreciate your insights on the limits of crisis thinking. Well said. I’ll have to limit the metaphor to a crisis creates urgency and focus.
In the real world, not the metaphorical, keep your mind open when the house is on fire. Most organizations aren’t literally on fire 🙂 But I’ll stick with the basic idea that things get clear when the house is on fire and acknowledge there is more to the story.
By the way, Kotters work on urgency is fantastic. He doesn’t like to define urgency in terms of fear.
I think the best thing we can do as leaders when we see success (if we ever truly see it) is to get out of the way and watch another leader make it even better. To borrow from Maxwell, know your “lid”. If you have hit it, either raise your lid or get out of the way. Start something new and be successful all over again.
Thanks Anthony. We tend to hang on to our successes and protect them. But, as you suggest, letting other in is an opportunity to go to another level. Great add.
This is an excellent, insightful article. In addition to using the strategies above, one of the strategies we use in our organization to prevent the stagnation is to keep expanding our vision so that we’re building success upon success. We also don’t keep those around who live in a state of complacency and think I’m being a beast because I demand we reach for the next level in our larger vision, that excellence is a core value that must be practiced at all times and that we always be finding ways to add more value to our clients lives and businesses. Thanks for your wisdom. It is highly beneficial to our organization.
Thanks for bringing up the importance of having the right players on the team. During good times it is too easy tolerate foot-draggers, nay sayers, and complainers by just focusing on the good.
As humans, we are wired to respond in crisis, emergency (Fight or Flight). When we have to do things proactively when there is no apparent danger, we are often not as successful. Not that we can’t be, just that we aren’t (Think: smoking, weight loss, diet, exercise). Collins is right: The enemy of great is good. Many of you have used the term “complacency.” An apt description for what is going on.
In my experience being great, or more successful, as an individual or an organization requires great discipline that has formed great habits. Along with this is an understanding that the best time for invention is while you are still on an up curve of growth and discovery.
Thanks for all the great insights.
I’m delighted you added the concept of good vs. great. The amount of discipline it takes to rise above average is daunting. Most don’t make it.
Great habits… I wonder what great habits?
1. Always thinking about next steps.
2. Valuing new relationships
3. Celebration and dissatisfaction
When leaders have success they often stop pushing the boundaries. They stop looking for how they can do even better. One of the key things leaders need to do is get out of their narrow scope and engage other successful leaders. I’ve found that one can be a success in their own backyard, street and locally. When they go into the region they have less success and when they go nationally they hav no success. Leaders have to keep expanding the boundaries to engage and keep learning as its a never ending process.
I’ve found that meeting highly successful leaders is a real eye opener. Sometimes we are a big fish in a small pond.
I’m glad you added connecting with other leaders.
Sometimes, we’ve gotta burn the house down to make progress and move forward. Decisions become crystal clear and we have fertile ground for new seeds.
One of the toughest and scariest things to do. I’m also a believer in creating an artificial crisis to help overcome inertia.
Love the analogy. Burning things down to recognize what we have left and restarting things again. Kind of like the phoenix.
Thank you Dan for this one and all the others I love them. The only thing that kept coming to my mind while reading this is Pride comes before the fall
Added to you my must read feedly blog..great article with some awesome tips. i agree that with success you become distracted, and stop trying new things and stop taking risks.. i have experienced it myself