Leadership at the peak – The perils of success

By George W Nyabadza

A FEW days ago I was speaking to my friend Douglas M. Actually he was boasting about the success that his organisation has been experiencing of late, apparently, in his opinion, firmly e

stablishing itself as number one in its field, using the profitability measure.


I had called him for our usual once a month pep talk where we inspire each other to greatness; one of the unique pillars of our friendship is a selfless desire to see the other optimise the use of their God-given potential.


Success should only be enjoyed for a little while but then one must move on and keep growing. Once a new level of success has been reached it rapidly becomes a new level of mediocrity. So as long as we live and breathe there is no parking but an ongoing upward thrust to greatness.


It was a late night call from me, and I had expected him to be at home, but to my surprise he was still at the office, and he was sounding rather frustrated. In pursuing my suspicions I wondered aloud how he could be celebrating success and at the same time be sounding so frustrated.


It turned out that the question uppermost in his mind at that moment was how he would, in the next few months, go about maintaining the levels of enthusiasm that had recently driven his team to superior performance. He was concerned that there was a creeping level of complacency, a sense of “we have arrived” that would, if unchecked, affect service and completely undo the success currently been experienced.


Being a wise man, he used the moment with great intelligence and extracted free strategic consulting service from me. Some of the issues we discussed, which you should bear in mind or apply to your organisation to overcome the complacency that so easily besets all of us when we experience success, are:


They are after you!


Being number one or taking over someone’s coveted prize simply means that you have created at best an enthusiastic rival and at worst a resolute enemy who will pull out all stops to destroy you in the effort to regain what is lost and what they believe is rightly theirs. You have no room to enjoy your victory, you must move on and stretch the defining parameters of success and change the rules by making your achieved level of success nothing more than a new level of mediocrity. That way your competitor has two battles to fight, the first being to play catch up to the “new level of mediocrity” and the second, to pursue after you in the new game you are defining.


Inner attitudes


One of the easiest things to emulate is service delivery processes. Be assured that your competitors are right now studying your processes and will introduce them into their businesses enhanced. Advantage in service delivery is only sustainable if there is a greater reliance on people than processes.


Understand therefore that your greatest effort should be in building your people’s inner attitudes and motivation to be absolutely service-oriented. It is extremely difficult for competitors to emulate the inner attitudes of your service delivery people, which is everyone in the organisation.


Effort and reward


Rewards, across the board, should have a significant incentive portion, which is linked to innovation and service delivery. Flat packages do not inspire enduring service. There needs to be a clear link between reward and effort.


This also means that where service delivery superstars of the past fail or refuse to reinvent themselves and their teams and do not create or meet new standards of performance, urgent corrective measures have to be taken. Such measures include training and development, re-assignment, and if absolutely necessary, termination of employment.