…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?
8 thoughts on “How To Grow Your Business Without Hubris”
When a leader operates with hubris, and things get rocky, finger -pointing and blame seem to be close by. The mindset of infallibility can drive more prideful choices like blame shifting, and worse yet, it avoids dealing with the real issue at hand.
If you a solo entrepreneur, humility comes pretty quick (especially if business doesn’t). And when you see the difference it makes in culture, success and growth once you add people to your team, hubris should die a quick death. Thanks for another great blog, Chris.
You can apply this lesson to many areas of business: internal departments, sales people, mid-level managers, etc.
The bottom line is that hubris (extreme pride or arrogance) can mess up just about anything. Keeping your eye on the prize, humbling yourself and surrounding yourself with wise counsel is always a good bet.
The champion suggestion is great, by the way!! Thanks for sharing that!
Been there, done that. It was not pretty. Chewed more than I could bite and as a result I was a terrible leader for that team. I ended up leaving and they had to clean up the mess. Had I known back then what I know now, I would not have accepted that leadership position for which I was not prepared. Leadership is a privilege and a great responsibility; if you don’t use it wisely, you’re just being selfish.
Thought of Spiderman with this: “With great power comes freat responsibilty” 🙂
I have watched a very successful architectural firm (my husband’s former firm) crash because the principal always new best and refused to evolve. The principal’s pride blinded him from seeing changes in business strategies and even the loss of markets they had previously dominated. Sad! But I’m going to find that book and read it!
I don’t any problem with pride (check out my book “The 10 most humble men and how I trained the other 9”). 🙂
I need to keep myself in check. I have tendancy of thinking I’m superman (I remember your post, Chris, on this). I try to fly in and save the day and feel invincible. As a result, I overcommit and run into a wall of kryptonite.
I’ll work to keep these tips in mind, though, as I advance into other areas, both personally and professionally.
Thanks for the great reminder. First thing is to get awesome at what I do and then expand!