many businesses--previously vibrant, profitable, and growing--which simply
expired over time without anyone seeming to know precisely why, or how, it
While every business's story is different, I have noticed three recurring,
silent killers that can lure a founder/owner or business leader first into numb
complacency, then into eventual demise:
Marshall Goldsmith said it all in the title of
his excellent book, What Got You Here Won't Get You
There, even the most successful executive
(especially the most successful executive) doesn't necessarily have the
precise skills today for the challenges of tomorrow.
When was the last time you had a massive change of mind about a fundamental
way in which you do business? When was the last time a coach or a mentor so
challenged you about your management and leadership skills that you lost sleep?
When did you last scrap a much-loved process, or system, or meeting, or process
because its time had passed? When was the last occasion when someone told you
you were flat-out wrong about something important-- and they were right?
If the answer to any of these is 'So long ago I can't remember',
then chances are you're resting on the laurels of past success. Can you hear the
Business is hard. As my mother used to tell
me, "If it was easy, everybody would be doing it." Problem is, success often
leads us to forget this fact, and, convinced we've found the 'magic formula', we
start to operate on autopilot.
Then, before you know it, an 800-lb gorilla wanders out of left field and all
our best-laid plans disappear instantly.
Business is hard, and that means as successful business owners, we need to
not just work hard, but to think hard-- about everything. Many of the
business owners I've met who had their long-nurtured, successful businesses
disappear from under their noses did so simply because they didn't think hard
enough, or long enough about what, and where, and by whom their business could
If you can hear the water reach a low boil as you read this, try using the PESTLE framework to re-ignite your 'hard
Of all the silent killers, this is the
hardest to watch: A business leader reaches a level of success that attracts
more and more opportunity for them, to the extent that their activity levels
become so high, that instead of doing one thing well, they're now doing multiple
It's particularly painful to watch for two reasons: First, it happens from
the best of motives. Joanne is an incredibly effective leader, so she gets asked
to do many things (speak at conferences, sit on boards, champion projects), and
her sense of wanting to give back means it's hard for her to refuse. Secondly,
it's hard for the individual concerned to see what happens next - her level of
performance drops as she simply cannot be fully present, fully involved, fully
focused on all she now has on her plate.
And so, inevitably, the water begins to simmer, then boil, as Joanne loses
her edge, drops the ball, misses important facts...
Woody Allen said 95 percent of success is showing up. What he meant, of
course (which is apparent if you know anything of his career), is showing up in
every sense of the word-- physically, yes, but also mentally and
If you've become habitually late for meetings (or habitually have to leave
early); if you never have time to read the background data on an important
decision; if you constantly find yourself telling people to 'get to the point',
then you're not showing up. Not in any sense that matters.
Can you feel the water boiling?
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