Can being too good be a problem?

People and organizations want to be the best but they don’t see the problems with being the best frequently until it’s too late.

Some of the problems that arise include complacency, delusions of grandeur, delusions of invincibility and a general lack of motivation.

The things that made an organization or person great usually include hard work, risk taking, discipline, commitment etc. However, when you become complacent, you don’t feel the need to work as hard. This might be because you feel you are so good hard work wont make you any better (delusions of grandeur). It might be because you think you are so much better than everyone else that even if you don’t work as hard as you used to, no one can catch up.

Top organizations sometimes forget that some of their best people were somewhat risky when they first joined the organization because they might have had some downside but also had great upside. When the organization gets to the top, they stop looking at those same people that made them great because they are no longer willing to risk the downside so instead they make the safe choices who don’t have the potential downside but might not have the great potential upside either.

The people who used to put in the long hours and who made the great sacrifices to get to the top are now being invited to do other things (speak to other groups, go to parties etc) and all of a sudden, they aren’t doing the small things that it took to get to that level (this would be where the lack of commitment and lack of discipline come in).

The real problem is that the people at the top of these organizations frequently suffer from the “Emperor has no clothes” syndrome and the people around them are so intimidated by the supposed greatness of these individuals that they wont point out the weaknesses that should be apparent.

There are numerous examples from history of top organizations being knocked off the top when most people thought it would never happen.

In sports, just last season the New England Patriots were considered a lock to win the Super Bowl after going through the entire season undefeated. After the New York Giants beat them, people started looking back and noticing some of the problems the Patriots were having in recent games but those problems were overshadowed by the fact they kept winning. Their superiority hid many of the problems that might have been apparent if they had lost a game or two.

In technology, when PC’s first became available, it was assumed that IBM would always be the dominant player in that industry. While still a strong company, they aren’t dominant in that field and in fact, when people talk about what their next PC purchase will be, you rarely hear the name IBM. Netscape was the dominant browser, if you wanted to get online you almost automatically went when with AOL. If you wanted to search for something online you went to alta vista or to Lycos.

When automobiles first came out, you got a Ford (and more specifically, you got a black Ford).

Is it possible to be an organization on the top and not suffer from complacency and the delusions? Certainly, but it’s something you have to work on every day. If you are much better than your competition, don’t compare yourself to your competition but instead, compare yourself to what you are capable of achieving. Continue the things that got you to your level and as the head of the organization, realize that even if you are aware of the dangers from being at the top, the people underneath you might not. Heads of organizations frequently are hardest on their groups when things are going bad but that is sometimes when they need to hear more positives than negatives. When things are going well, that is the time to make sure they are aware of the all of the negatives because others are telling them how good they are, it’s your job to keep them level.

Most importantly, surround yourself with people who can look beyond the obvious and when they see problems (even when the others don’t) are willing to point them out and make sure those problems get fixed.

Success hides many problems while failure hide many good things. Look objectively at all situations, whether you are at the top or trying to get there and good things will happen

Have a great day!


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