The five enemies within I will cover in this month’s article apply as much to organizations as they do to individuals. However, I am focusing on overcoming the enemies within the individual – yourself – in this space as I believe that the diminishment of any business begins with the ebbing of its leaders.
It is wrong to assume that your biggest threat as a leader comes from outside forces: the economy, government, competition, or manufacturer. This fact is actually good news since you cannot control any of those factors.
Your biggest threat as a leader, as a human being, comes from the inside – primarily from wrong thinking. In other words, you are far more likely to self-destruct than you are to be defeated by an outside foe. All five of the enemies within I list impair your psyche from time to time. It’s when they begin to dominate your thinking and actions that they lay you to waste. Thus, it’s essential to face these five ravagers of progress, these thieves of joy, this quintet of misery, and devastate them. Yes, devastate them. You don’t “handle” or “deal with” pride, rationalization, indifference, complacency, and fear; you must destroy them before they render you as irrelevant.
Pride is the number one cause of management failure. Every other cause attributed to why a leader fails finds it roots in some manner of pride or arrogance. For example:
- You don’t build a team because you’re too dependent upon yourself. You eventually become overwhelmed and fail. The culprit? Pride!
- You become a know-it-all and stuck in your ways and fail. The culprit? Pride!
- You compromise your character because you believe you’re above the rules and don’t value others, eventually failing as you reap what you sow. The culprit? Pride!
- You overreach in search of growth because you believe you are invincible and can do anything well. As you spread their resources and talent pool too thin you fail. The culprit? Pride!
This list of failures attributed to pride could go on through next month’s column. Because we are flawed human beings, pride comes naturally and must be combated by the cultivation of humility. Chapter three in my book, How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK offers eight steps to cultivate humility. Most of you will not read the book because you don’t think pride is a problem, which is clear evidence that for you it is! Incidentally, in my years of studying biblical leadership principles one fact that should concern you has become abundantly clear: there is no sin judged faster than pride.
Pride leads to rationalization. Rationalization deadens your conscience to character compromises. Before long you can trivialize and sanitize even the most deplorable actions: unjust pay cuts, deceiving customers, high-balling prospective new hires with wrong income expectations, dishonest advertising, one more lie, a one night stand, false statements on loan applications, and then perjury as you try to spin your way out of it.
The best defense against rationalization is defining up front which values you deem as non-negotiable and resolving to live them without excuse and regardless of the cost. It’s always easier to make decisions and do what’s right when you find yourself at temptation’s gate after you’ve already engraved in granite what you stand for and won’t fall for.
Rationalization breeds indifference. As you immerse yourself in character compromises that quench the spirit within you, you stop caring as much about employees, customers, family, friends, everything, except your own pursuit of riches, power, perks and self-preservation.
Indifference is a cousin of apathy, which invites procrastination, which guarantees indecision, all deadly enemies in their own right.
In addition to maintaining a rock solid character that foregoes rationalization, you overcome indifference by enlarging your world view beyond your own selfish shell and invest more energy in making a difference than you do in making money. In fact, making a difference offsets indifference, especially when the difference you make is in the people and world around you. And don’t worry, as you make a bigger difference in the people and world around you the money will be there. In fact, you’re far better off to chase the difference than to chase the money, because when you chase making a difference, the money chases you.
Indifference triggers complacency. No one can make you complacent; it is a product of your own wrong thinking. Complacency is a personal decision to settle for less than your best. It’s a lethargic resignation that what you’ve done is good enough. Complacency means that you become calmly content and smugly self-satisfied. You may not come right out and say that you are in this state, but your actions convict you nonetheless. Here are several quick signs that you’re already complacent, but aren’t able to recognize it because you’re also in denial:
- You hire recklessly. The entry barrier into your company is so low that losers keep tripping over it, landing smack in the middle of your payroll.
- You train inconsistently, or not at all. And then make excuses that you don’t have the time. The “no time” declaration suggests that, in addition to being complacent, you are also dishonest, disorganized, clueless, and just plain…well, you know.
- Your organization has unclear standards, little accountability, and tenured employees who have long ago stopped performing.
If I have to tell you how to overcome complacency, then your thinking has become so decrepit that you’re borderline hopeless. Think about it: You didn’t get where you are by being complacent. You became complacent after you got where you are. Think back to what drove you to excel in the first place: goals, hopes, dreams, self-respect, desire for a better life, and the like. Now forget about where you are and redefine where you want to go. You know the rest of the recipe because you’ve already done it. You don’t suffer for lack of knowledge; you suffer because you don’t do what you know. Get up off your knowledge and do something!
Complacency makes you fearful to move from where you are, because it is comfortable there. Thus, you’ll count the cost of action and flinch, never weighing your immobility against the costs and risks of comfortable inaction that render you as yesterday’s news. Fear is evidence that you lack faith. Lack of faith is evidence that you depend too much on your own wisdom and ability, and not enough on God. FYI: This is yet another symptom that you have a problem with pride.
You must overcome fear with courage. You’re born with neither fear nor courage. You develop both, over time. Courage doesn’t mean that you are unafraid. You may very well be afraid, but you move forward despite the fear. Overcoming fear in this manner energizes you, creating a level of alertness, urgency, and excitement that you never enjoy while you’re besieged by the five enemies within.
What have these five enemies cost you personally, as well as your dealership? Which opportunities have you failed to maximize or missed altogether? Which losses have you neglected to cut that continue to bleed your organization? How much longer are you willing to embrace the comfortable inaction that renders you and your company as “one of many”, rather than as a category of one?