What Are The Biggest Enemies Of Success?

????????????????“WHERE DID I GO WRONG?”

Micrel's  CEO, "Bob",  asked the question to the assembled team of minions, but he was really asking the question to himself.

I was one of those minions. In fact, Bob was asking the question in response to a presentation I gave about how to fix the division I was running.

Bob had hired me six months earlier to fix the division. “Bring us up to your level,” was the pitch he gave me to close the deal.

I joined the company and I started digging in. The problems were not hard to find, and they weren’t complicated.


The problems were what I call “Business 101” type of problems:


  • No sales collateral for products being sold (Some announced products did not have collateral for over two years!)
  • No product differentiation
  • A weak team

Back to the meeting…

Bob was clearly pissed. He stood up and said to me, “I never want to have another meeting like this again!”

Then Bob left the meeting.

I was surprised at Bob's response.   Bob told me he had brought me in to fix the division. However, Bob didn’t want to hear about the problems.

I now had two choices:

  1. Take the easy route and do nothing. Just go with the flow until I found another job.
  2. Make the necessary changes. But do it in a way that Bob was unaware of the changes.

I choose making the necessary changes.

The most important thing was fixing the product collateral. This was critical to fix because you can’t sell your products without collateral.

It was truly an exercise in Business 101.

All that was needed was assigning people to each of the necessary pieces of collateral, developing a detailed schedule, and then holding people accountable for each schedule.

Product differentiation and a weak team were really one problem. The weak team wasn’t capable of defining unique products.

The problem was I couldn’t fire the team without Bob knowing. Fortunately, the company was gearing up for a layoff, so I used the layoff to clean house.   (Not that I enjoy letting people go. It's always awful. But, if you're going to have to downsize, and if there are people who you're better of without, it's a little less awful.)

Many times, the biggest enemy of success is yourself.


Certainly, it was in Bob’s case.Slide1

There are many other enemies of success. I have suffered from all of these at various points in my career:

A.  Fear.  

Have you ever been so afraid that you can’t think straight? I have. Your mind is going so fast that you are paralyzed by your own thoughts.

I have found having a daily practice of mindfulness, exercise, reading, and journaling first thing in the morning puts me in a calm frame of mind. I can think clearly about the solutions even though my problems are still there.

B.  Greed.  

A friend of mine told me a great story the other day. He had just been promoted. The promotion included taking over responsibilities of another executive.

The executive (already a multi-millionaire) refused to give up the responsibilities unless he got the quarterly bonus associated with those responsibilities. My friend graciously let the executive have the bonus.

The executive never advanced further in his career while my friend continues advancing. This leads me to…

C.  Short-Sighted Thinking.

My friend was thinking about the opportunity, not the money. The executive was thinking only about the money.

The money will follow if you do the right thing.

D.  Hubris.  

Yes success breeds success, but it also breeds hubris. I worked in a very successful company. The CEO was brilliant and he surrounded himself with strong executives.

The company continued growing. The CEO eventually stopped listening to his executives, thus making decisions without counsel. Eventually it cost him his job.

Power is intoxicating. I know this first hand. The longer I was CEO, the more invincible I felt.

The only counterweight to hubris is surrounding yourself with strong, independent people you can trust. One more thing: you have to truly listen to what they have to say.

E.  Procrastination.

I could also label this one poor time management. The further you progress in your career, the more important time management becomes.

We all get 24 hours each day. Successful people manage their time with laser-like focus.

F.  Knowing When Good Is Good Enough.

Jim Collins famously wrote that, “Good is the enemy of great.” However, sometimes trying to make everything great can be just as damaging.

For example, many products have hundreds of specifications. However, only a small percentage of the specifications (maybe only two) are truly important to customers. These specifications must be great in order to win.

The rest of the specifications probably only need to be good enough. And trying to make every specification great likely will cause considerable delays in introducing the product, costing the company significant revenue.

Knowing when good is good enough is an art form unto itself.

G.  Stopping Just Short Of The Finish Line.

How many times have we seen this one? You’ve been working hard on a project and you give up. Then, you see someone else with the same idea succeed.

Don’t let this happen to you. Keep fighting until you win.

H.  Hiring A Weak Team.

No one can do it alone and thinking you can is just plain crazy. The old saying, “A players hire A players. B players hire C players,” is true.

You’re an A player, right? Hire the best people you can. Don’t be intimidated if they are smarter than you because that’s how you will win.

You can read more of my thoughts on hiring here: https://www.brettjfox.com/the-four-keys-to-hiring-exceptional-people/

I.  Not Learning To Delegate.

You’ve hired a great team. You’ve pointed everyone in the right direction. You have a clear plan of attack.

Now delegate as much as you can to your team!

I’m not saying give everything to your team. However, you want to achieve two goals:

  1. Free yourself up, so you can play to your own strengths.
  2. Motivate your team by responsibly giving your team as much responsibility as possible.

I was very fortunate to work for a company early in my career where a lot of responsibility was given to smart, motivated, inexperienced people.

Of course the inexperienced people made mistakes. However, this same group of inexperienced people thrived. The company and their employees (the inexperienced team) were the beneficiary.


What happened to Bob's company? 


The company went sideways for many years. Earnings and revenue remained flat.

The company’s investors eventually lost patience with Bob, and he was pushed aside.

I wonder to this day if Bob understands where he went wrong – a cautionary tale for all of us.

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