It’s Time to Celebrate – Or Is It?

The opportunities for celebrating a win in business can sometimes be few and far between; starting a new business, raising capital, new product development and launch. After a win there is a time of elation, but also…risk.

After achieving any hard-won goal one faces three types of risks, each with a different origin, but all with the potential for close-following consequential losses. The origins lie in one or more of the following:
1. Exhaustion
2. Complacency
3. Hubris

Exhaustion
Getting across the finish line took everything you had, including the resources required to capitalize on your victory. The cure is:
1. Acknowledge the brilliance of your achievement;
2. Select the next small step beyond your victory;
3. Create a support group from among those co-celebrating your victory. Choose only people with the energy, passion, intelligence and will to assist you in your next step.
4. Tap into the energy, resources and contacts of your support group to recharge your batteries (but don’t fall into the trap of attempting to “lead by committee.”)
5. Pick a date to reengage with your journey and commit to the achievement of your next step – and next victory. Bring the willing along with you.

Complacency
The temptation here is to bask in the glory when you should be harvesting and capitalizing on your winnings. The cure:
1. Celebrate: Have a clear-cut period during which you bask all you like, then
2. Create or refine your plan for “after we win” and set new goals to maintain motivation.
3. Engage any and all future stakeholders in your Plan.
4. Execute the plan: Be prepared to vary it in the light of experience – but don’t vary your goals!
5. Evaluate progress and continually refine your execution.

Hubris
Pride comes before a fall. Any great achievement can temporarily swamp your brain and have you lose perspective. Come back to reality:
1. Ground your thinking in logic, evidence and data. Use that same brain that manufactured your recent victory to gain a clear picture of “what’s really out there.”
2. Choose talented, intelligent and independent trusted advisors who do not depend on you for their living and use them as sounding boards for your ideas. Give their views the weight due to the intelligence which gave rise to them. We can always learn something from someone else.
3. Revisit your Vision, Mission and Values. Drink them in; test everything you are seeing and planning against them. Remain true to them – or change them, but with the same thought and gravity with which you first created them. If your Values shift more than marginally, talk over this fact with the strongest of your Trusted Advisors.
4. Deliberately change your internal and external language to: “We won!”, “The team can . . . “. Encourage yourself to acknowledge all of the contributions that others make to the victories for which you may be the figurehead.
5. Create opportunities for diverse group wisdom to feed into unified decision making, then maintain the team’s commitment to The Plan, only changing parts of it when the feedback says it’s not working (and not going to work). No Plan is perfect, but you can strive for excellence in execution.
6. Focus all discussions on what worked, what didn’t work, what will work, what won’t work. As soon as right and wrong come into the discussion, move exploration towards solutions, plans and action, towards what needs to be done to get a different result. Seek agreement and unanimous commitment towards future action at the end of any post mortem.
7. Excellence + Commitment = Winning. Create a culture that supports the pursuit of personal and professional excellence, that affirms commitment to that standard, and that acknowledges evidence of that culture. Treat any losses as learning opportunities and use the post mortem process outlined above. A wise person once said, “I’ve never learned anything particularly useful from my victories, but my losses have been enormously educative!” Incorporate that perspective into your culture.

As a leader you can do a lot worse than to adopt Sun Tzu’s wisdom in striving to empower your team while divesting yourself of the baggage of ego, by telling yourself, “I am at my best when my people barely know I am there, so that when our work is done and our goals fulfilled, they will say, “We did it ourselves!”

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© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

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