09 Nov 2015 15:28 IST

Beware of the success trap

Fresh MBAs are most likely to fall into it

Failure leads to success if the lessons from the mistakes made are learnt well. However, the reverse is also ironically true. Success leads to failure if a person gets so caught up in the patterns of success and looks to constantly duplicate it.

Let me illustrate this with an example.

In one of the organisations I worked in, there was a very good sales person. His performance was consistently excellent and obviously led to higher expectations in his mind. The regular incentives and salary increases were no longer motivating and a promotion was expected. He was promoted in order to retain the person, as also motivate him to perform even better. This turned out to be the biggest mistake for both that person and the organisation. His performance as a manager turned out to be very poor and his team’s performance started to suffer.

He would jump in and do sales calls often to push up the numbers, and this only ended up making the situation worse.

It was soon evident that the ace sales man was not a great manager and that he was caught in his own success trap.

Caught in the middle

What went wrong was that the person thought the main reason for his success was his ability to sell. He never looked beyond that skill. Therefore, he was oblivious to the new role’s expectations and, thus, he wasn’t able to meet the demands.

Such a success trap is especially true for students, especially for those in the management stream.

During any educational programme people tend to be successful for a variety of reasons. Many of these reasons are linked to academic parameters, managing relationships and perceptions of their faculty members who evaluate them. The evaluation parameters are also very different in an educational programme, when compared with a workplace.

Therefore, a person needs slightly different sets of skills and orientation to be successful in any academic programme as compared to a working environment.

The first warning signal is invariably during the placement season where poor communication skills become a crucial barrier for getting a good placement. The next step is the start of the job itself and managing the working environment. In most cases when the person is having trouble adapting to the changed scenario, they tend to look back at their past success and try to blame the environment, boss or the organisation. This is also a case of

Inability to adapt

To be trapped in one’s past success and not being able to change and adapt is a success trap and most people tend to fall into this trap.

Unfortunately, the success trap is not a danger limited to the transition from education to a career but is a reality throughout life.

The simplest and most effective way to avoid the success trap is to be conscious of change and aware of the elements which have changed. This would give clarity with regard to the changing expectations and dynamics which can then be managed effectively.

To read more from the Out of Syllabus section, click here .

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