Does Success Blind Us To The Real Opportunity?


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My friend, Gary Hart, were having an email conversation about performance. We were talking about an organization both of us know well that outwardly seemed to be successful. They were meeting their numbers, managers were proud, but both Gary and I saw they could be doing so much more.

Often I get into conversations with very successful sales professionals or leaders. They have a track record of meeting their goals, consistently meeting quota. Justifiably, they’re proud. But then, I pose the question, “Are you achieving enough? Are you reaching your full potential?” Often, the reaction is, “What do you mean? We’re consistently hitting our goals, meeting our numbers. Are you trying to tell me we’re not doing enough?”

Actually, I am, very often, I see individuals and organizations not performing to their full potential. They are meeting their goals, but could be doing so much more.

In some cases, success can be blindingly devastating. Take the organization that is always meeting their numbers. But then you take a broader look, their competitors are growing faster than they are. They are losing customers. They are missing opportunities. Their channel partners are shifting focus to other product lines. Their people are moving to “more exciting opportunities.” Within the organization, we sometimes let our success blind us. We think we are doing well, but don’t consider, “Can we do better?” “Are we missing something?” “Could we be more effective.” We get so focused on the “goal” that we lose site of everything else. Or we let our “success” lull us into a sense of complacency.

One of the nice things about failure is that it forces us to examine what we are doing. A nice thing about this past economic downturn is that all of a sudden, a lot of the sins our past successes masked became vividly apparent. Too often, we succumb to being prisoners of our own experience. We continue to do the things we always have done–those things allowed us to achieve our goals. We never take time to reassess, to consider something different, something that could make us more effective, achieve new levels of performance, extend our success.

I see similar things in talking to sales people. Poor to mediocre sales people obsess on the quota. Thebad sales people complain, “Management doesn’t understand, they are trying to screw us!”. The mediocre sales people worry, “I dnon’t know how to hit these numbers!” My conversations with really great sales people are different. They don’t care about their quota—it’s just a milestone they pass on the way to achieving the goals they have set for themselves. Great sales people are always looking to achieve more, they are continuously looking at how they can improve. While they have been very successful in the past, they don’t care about that, there’s always something more they can do and achieve.

Success is great, we all want to be successful, we need to be successful for our organizations. Our companies strive for success.

The real question is, are you just settling for success? Could you achieve more?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Hi Dave,
    Enjoyed the article and it reminded me of Jim Collin’s book “good to great” where he states that “Good is the enemy of Great”! Jim was talking about corporations but it is certainly the same with sales or service people. As sonmeone who has coached and managed these types of people for over 30 years I can say that the truly Great ones never stop looking for ways to get better and schieve more.
    One of the major issues with this issue are managers who are just as complacent when working with these great people.They are too lazy or just don’t know how to manage them up the ladder. finding ways to help Great people get even better is hard work and requires the manager to really work and observe every detail that they see when working together.

  2. Mike, thanks for the great insight. One of the true privileges of management is to develop great people, helping them achieve greatness. Thanks for reminding us of the privilege.


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