Super successful people do not reach or certainly “coast” on their success in the plateau stage (#4 in the image below) of their personal S-curve, as I described in Curve Benders!
Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of very successful leaders, and I’ve found they have one thing in common. As they hit their strides (#2) and excel (#3) in a particular role, on a key initiative, with a portfolio of relationships, they never let themselves get bored and fall in an autopilot mode! They always keep challenging themselves. They always keep trying to be better.
A lot of us have a tendency to want the familiar, the comfortable, and the predictable – in other words, to coast. If we’re good at something, our default is to keep doing it! After all, why not – it’s clearly served us well. The challenge is that this isn’t always a great personal or professional growth asset.
If you’ve ever had a great boss or a mentor, they tend to see this in us very early on. They admire our quick learning demeanor and may be impressed with our ramp-up speed in any new role/function/realm of responsibility. But once they realize we’ve got the job figured out, they become concerned about our sense of status quo. They become particularly curious about how we’re searching for new insights, analyzing new findings, surrounding ourselves with very different thinking styles, and growing through the process, as a manager, and as a leader? The great ones point out this fault of ours very early on.
You see great bosses are also great teachers, incredibly generous in teaching us not just our organization’s products, services, how to manage, or even how to lead; they often teach us more about ourselves. They let us follow them around to learn what they do and how they do it. When the right opportunity arises, they ask us to step up and do what they do. The intended recipient of their value may not be quite happy that a substitute has shown up, but they will tolerate us, and should we perform at or above expectations, we begin to earn our own credibility and repute in key initiatives, or functions.
That passing of the baton often gets us off to a great start in our personal S-curves. As we work with this boss/coach/mentor over several months and years, we get accolades and yet they see the complacency that tends to come with our comfort in the role. They see that we’re becoming a hamster on a wheel, not going anywhere; we’ll certainly do well, make a comfortable living, and be able to create a good life, yet if we don’t find ways to reinvent ourselves, we’ll certainly reach a plateau and never fulfill our full potential.
We tend to grow incredibly fond of these amazing bosses, coaches, and mentors and their wisdom can trigger profound emotions. Mostly because we know they’re right and unless we change our behaviors, we’ll never reinvent ourselves, create anything new and exciting to propel us forward from now to next.
The headwind in that formula is our need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. So, we keep going and a few years in that job becomes a decade of a rut! We coast our success, sure, get promoted or take on bigger projects. We do good work. Our various stakeholders are happy. And yet, we increasingly find ourselves defending the status quo vs. challenging it.
It’s only when we meet other great bosses, coaches, and mentors that we begin to heed their advice and commit to real change. New bosses, coaches, and mentors help us focus on what those early great bosses had suggested – that we engage in real growth, original thinking, write, present, speak candidly and factually, with passion and conviction in ideas we create, research we believe in, and talent we want to retain and develop on our teams.
Without great bosses, coaches, and mentors in our lives, we seldom can become the best version of ourselves. Without the advice of early bosses who see the ingredients that we don’t see early on in ourselves, we would never know that reaching and staying at that plateau, based on a false sense of achievement, is the very thing most really successful people don’t do!
How are you reinventing yourself? David Nour