Success Can Be Dangerous

Every company and its people desire to be successful.  The definition of success for each company varies depending upon the company’s leaders and their goals.  When those goals are met through hard work and strenuous effort coupled with a team working together to overcome inevitable obstacles, it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that is simply hard to describe.

However, success must never be considered a destination but simply a stopping point to reflect and to continue on to even greater achievement.  In fact, success can be a trap to ensnare a company or individual and lead to failure.  I was reminded of this recently while listening to Jim Collins audio CD entitled,  How the Mighty Fall.  Collins described great companies who had achieved some of the highest levels of success only to succumb to the success trap and fail, many of the companies even ceasing to exist.

There are many views as to why success is a danger zone.  I believe that it can all be boiled down to one word, complacency.  Webster’s on-line dictionary defines complacency as , “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”

How can a company and its leaders guard against and prevent this terrible malady of complacency?  Pat Riley, the former very successful NBA coach talked about dealing with complacency with some of his championship teams.  He said, “complacency…can exist only in an atmosphere of denial.  It can’t survive in an environment of knowing.  If relevant facts are assembled and presented in a clear, openhearted way; reality is defined and denial becomes an impossibility(Riley, p.161-162).”

To prevent complacency in your company, always do the following:

  • Set standards in every critical area of your company.
  • Measure actual results against those standards every day, week, and month.
  • Compare those actual results against the standards of the very best companies in your industry.

“Only by committing oneself to a tougher and constant standard of training, alertness, and performance can Complacency be kept at bay.  In getting to Mastery, no matter what the team or contest, precise and clearly understood information is the foundation(Riley p. 182).”

*Riley, Pat,  (1993), The Winner Within

photo credit: Caution via photopin (license)

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