…means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power. | Wikipedia
In the early days of building a company, the focus is on doing everything you possibly can to be successful. As the company begins to grow, all to often, hubris starts to set in. If you’re doing things well and the team is succeeding, eventually the concept becomes “We can succeed in anything!” Many leaders take their eye off the ball and shift their focus in another direction.
What else can we do that’ll be even more successful than what we’ve got already?
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Collins on this very subject (listen to the interview here). In his book, How the Mighty Fall, he discusses the five stages of decline & how hubris grows along with the company. The issue becomes how can we find other ways to be successful instead of how can we be successful at what we’re doing.
When a leader or a team take their focus away from what’s working and pours their energy into another area, the successful piece becomes less energetic. Frustration, fear and anger set in when the new project doesn’t meet expectations. Eventually, what was working so well starts slowing down and the same negative emotions set in.
Why in the world is that thing not working now?
It was working just fine and all of the sudden it’s falling apart.
Why? Hubris. The team is scattered and they’re expecting that everything will be successful because they’ve been successful. Does this mean you can’t focus on more than one thing? Not at all. Instead, make sure you’ve got a champion who is completely focused on what’s working before you divert energy into something else. Be careful not to divert all the team’s energy from the existing project into the new one.
When you’re ready to launch a project or product:
- Make sure the existing project or product is working well
- Back it up with a champion and keep your eye on it from time to time
- Check what you expect and don’t devote all your energy to the new project
- However, treat it like a start-up company and do everything you can to make it successful
Don’t be shocked if it takes some time. Way too many leaders and owners expect that the moment they go another direction it’s going to be as successful as the original product. Remember, it took x number of years to get where you are. Baby steps. Patience. You’re building a great product not just a widget.
Question: Have you experienced hubris; was there decline or was it prevented?