By Susan Ford Collins, author of “The Joy of Success: 10 Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want“
Success and leadership have gears… and we’re not shifting them correctly! We’ve gotten stuck in “the more-better-faster, what-have-you-done-for-me-
Our kids understand this intuitively. And they’re speaking up. In interviews, many teens said, “I don’t WANT to be successful!” Why? “Because if you’re successful, you never have time for family, friends and fun. You’re always working. Your boss never appreciates you and keeps asking for more.” No wonder they don’t want to be successful! Let’s stop and take a close look at what’s off. And how to correct it.
When we drive, we shift gears up and down as circumstances require, or our automatic transmission shifts for us. As we succeed and lead we need to do the same thing, but we aren’t. Let’s take a closer look at when the three gears of success and leadership are needed.
As we succeed…
1st Gear is for starting and restarting, learning and relearning
2nd Gear is for accelerating performance, producing and competing
3rd Gear is for breaking through outmoded approaches to creativity and innovation.
But here’s where it gets tricky. We use the word success as though it means the same thing all the time, but it doesn’t. What we mean by success is quite different in each gear. And the leadership we need in each gear is quite different too. This is what our kids don’t realize, and we haven’t either, till now.
Success in 1st Gear means following rules and regs so we can perform our new skill safely and effectively. Then the meaning of success shifts. And our leadership needs to shift too.
Success in 2nd Gear means weeding out beginner’s rules and devising shortcuts so we can produce more quantity, more quality, more customers, more profit, in less time with less people. (It’s the more-better-faster gear our kids are hoping to avoid, but they will need in the future… like it or not.) Now we need more freedom and independence with timely evaluations and easy access to our leaders for additional input. Then when we start feeling our gears grinding, our bodies more and more stressed, our return on effort diminishing, we need to shift to 3rd.
Success in 3rd Gear is being creative, innovative and collaborative so we can continue advancing our careers and our lives. In 3rd gear we are leading our own project and looking for expertise and support.
But many people fail to shift into 3rd. Why?
Like an Indie driver, a manager at one of America’s companies constantly pressed down his accelerator and his teams’ accelerators too. Sick days and errors kept increasing. Morale kept dropping. Even though Jim constantly complained he was exhausted, his heart was pounding and he couldn’t sleep, even though he had more vacation days saved up than anyone else, he wouldn’t take time off. Why? Because he kept telling himself his team wouldn’t produce at the same level without him and his results would slip… and so would his bonus.
By disproportionately incenting, bonusing and promoting 2nd Gear activities, Corporate America is multiplying the problem… as well as resultant family and health issues and budget-breaking costs. This complex interaction of success and leadership errors is producing The Success Crisis.
But wait. The Success Crisis is costing far more! Overusing 2nd Gear means underusing 1st and 3rd… squeezing out time we need to replace outdated systems and equipment, to learn new methods and technologies (1st). And eating up time to think aboutwhat will work and how to start creating the future we want (3rd).
At a time when our infrastructure is crumbling, when train wrecks kill and maim us because we haven’t installed the latest safety systems, when we’ve sent manufacturing overseas and immigration policies prevent the smartest and most innovative international students from coming to our universities and think tanks, we need to pause to re-think, think and pre-think.
Fortunately some of our kids are taking matters into their own hands, showing the way to the future they want. And we will want too.
At 16, Blake Ross was a threat to Bill Gates… or so the cover of Wired magazine declared!
His psychologist mother Abby remembers: Blake spent hours in his room. ”We didn’t know what was going on in there at first, but when he started requesting programming books for his birthday, we began to get an idea.” When he wanted to do an internship in Silicon Valley, Abby had to file his work papers for him because he was three days short of 16! Still a teen, this self-taught coder co-founded Mozilla Firefox and sparked a global phenomenon. Firefox has been downloaded more than 226,265,215 times (as I write), threatening the supremacy of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as predicted! At 20, Blake had to buy a tux to attend a dinner for Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year. In 2013 Blake resigned from his position as Director of Product for Facebook to dream about what’s next for him. And Blake just turned 30!
Are you using all three Success and Leadership Gears at the right time? Is your organization? Who do you know who is stuck?
Susan Ford Collins is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and the founder of The Technology of Success. She began her career as a young researcher at the National Institutes of Health with a radical idea: to focus her research on healthy, highly successful people (HSPs) rather than dysfunctional ones. With more than two decades studying HSPs and two additional decades working with them, she now shares what she has learned about leadership and management.