“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” Zig Ziglar
Think about a time when you’ve experienced success in some area of your life, and received accolades from your family, peers and friends. For most persons, this a proud moment, a rewarding experience which can be described as “heady” at best. Yet, this is only one side of the story. Most successful people will tell you, the road after success was probably rougher than the one leading to it. Indeed, you may learn that behind each of those individual stories of success and achievement, are untold stories that are filled with less pleasant experiences, that might have threatened to derail them. So, my focus here, is on some of the pitfalls of success, (i.e) what is likely to happen to the individual, after he / she experiences success.
For most people, success and achievement produce a huge boost in self-confidence and provide greater motivation towards the pursuit of goals. As such, it is highly unlikely to cause an individual to immediately think about how they need may need to change. No, not when whatever they have done has worked, or has yielded the results they hoped for. More often than not, the individual is likely to think he/she is on the right path, and herein lies the danger.
My “blind spot” popped up very shortly after my first promotion on the job. It was accentuated by the fact that, I had just won four (4) quality performance awards including “Employee of the Year, Most Dynamic, Best Performing Learning Facilitator and 1st Faculty to Produce a Research Paper”. It’s therefore safe to say that -“I was on a high”. The recognition and accolades that followed only served to solidify my work ethic and philosophy about work and working with people. This could best be captured in my (then) personal mantra,“It’s not about me, it’s about the job. I don’t have to like you (or vice versa) for us to get the job done”. I don’t know how that might sound to you, but for me and other goal oriented people, the focus was simply to get the job done and produce results-not so much the “people factor”. So I was truly caught off guard when I realized that “what had gotten me my current level of success would not get me to my next.
You see, my job promotion has placed me at the helm the agency’s satellite training center, responsible for its regional operations and business development initiatives, directly supervising a team of 7 and approximately 20 third-party vendors, and suppliers. I tackled my new role, deeply conscious of the weight of my new responsibilities, the expectations of others, and with a burning desire to continue to succeed. Sometime after, the agency conducted an employee satisfaction survey to assess how well the organization was performing. These types of survey provide the management team with a good gauge as to how they are doing, gaps in performance and the areas of business operations that require improvements.
The good news was, my unit was doing well on most performance indicators, but the bad news was -my team was not entirely happy with me. That is, my management style. For though it produced results, and I enjoyed their confidence, respect and support, I wasn’t meeting their needs. Not surprisingly, I experienced all the emotions I described in another post (Why Does It Hurt So Bad?) and then some. Please note, that this dilemma was by no means unique to me. A quick review on the literature on Leadership Development will show that, many persons who assume leadership roles for the first time often face this issue or another during the period of adjustment.
Fortunately for me, the response of my supervisor was swift. She anticipated how devastated I would have felt, the learning curve I was in and she gave me her support. To move forward, both organizational and individual efforts were required. This experience prompted me to go in search of books on leadership, and resulted in me receiving developmental coaching, along with participating in a truly life changing leadership development program. These interventions, gave me the skills and tools, I would need to become the effective leader I strove to be, and equipped me the competences I needed, to become more effective with my team and guide my continued success.
Therefore, my experience is merely a reminder that, there are hidden dangers lurking with success. Success in one role, does not automatically lead to success in another for we all have blind-spots. It also taught me that:
- Despite my earlier successes, I hadn’t arrived. In fact, I was just getting started, and was even a little ill-prepared for my new role. This is by no means an indictment on my organization or the effectiveness of talent management and development strategy at my agency. Our successes should also prompt us to assess ourselves in the context of the new and emerging expectations and obligations that will follow.
- Both organizations and people need to invest in ongoing training and learning and development, regardless of role or position. Therefore, it is critically important that organizations plan for the development of their teams, prepare them to grow, move and attain success within the organization, and develop into more effective individuals.
- Development is dynamic – strengths can become weaknesses and new roles may require new skills. To avoid the pitfalls of success, one must recognize that, the approaches and mindsets that brought you earlier successes, might no longer serve you at the next level and you will need to change.
What has your experience been? Please share, I’d like to hear from you.
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You should be an organizational development professor if you aren’t already! Sounds like you know your stuff.
Thanks Joe-That’s where I’m headed
This is a extremely insightful article and resonates well with everyone who has ever achieved success. Sometimes i consider it that without career growth planning promotion may be a precursor to failure. Thanks for the humbling piece.
Thanks Matthew~ Im happy you found it useful~ but you are so right about success as the precursor for failure in some instances. And depending on how we respond to the experience~ it makes us or breaks us.
Quite informative, love it