Don’t Let Good Success Inhibit Greater Success (Even Subconsciously)

Call it arrogance, but I hate to be publicly shamed. I also hate for someone to point out I am wrong. So, for as long as I can remember, I have made sel-evaluation a daily practice, because if anyone is going to call me out for being wrong, I would like it to be, well, me. This has taken me far in life. However, as much self-evaluation I have administered as a manager, often my greatest growth came from when someone else pointed it out. Now, this has occurred in two different ways. The first is when someone felt complelled to inform or make a suggestion to me when I wasn’t ready to hear it; the other happened when I was more proactive and sought out the feedback. I opt for option two becuase frankly it is just easier for me to swallow. When someone offers me suggestions when I am not ready for it, I feel blindsided and my ego gets in the way, thwarting sage advice; especially when I know it’s true because it hit a nerve revealed by my defensiveness. Consequently, albeit it valuable guidance and crucial to my growth, I don’t learn from it as I should. So in my quest to become a better manager, and since I know how I am, I have adjusted my mindet to always be ready and open to suggestions, even when I am not ready for them or worse yet, I feel like I know better. With all this being said, some of the greatest, humbling advice I had to digest came, not when I was struggling (because frankly who isn’t willing to listen to change when things aren’t working). No, this advice came actually, when I was doing well, when I was succeeding.

That is when I realized that the greatest threat to growth and unimaginable success is a program, a process, a tactic etc., that is working well…maybe not even well, let’s say VERY well. The adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” has paralyzed the growth of many a program. Just because it is working well, or even very well, doesn’t mean that it is operating at its best and/or most efficient potential.

So, how do you make sure you don’t subconsciously fall into a rut and sabotage the success of your program or even your own growth? Allow me to share e a few suggestions:

  1. Weave constant reevaluation into the fabric of your program. Stay up to date on the latest trends in your industry use them to perform a litmus test against your program. Does it stand up to the test? If your initial reaction to this is hesistation, why is that? Are you afraid of what you may discover? If so, ask yourself why and try to work through that. Are you concerned perhaps that if it doesn’t stand up to the test and weak spots are revealed that it may cause concern of your ability to run a program? I challenge you to think of it this way instead. The very fact that you ran the litmus test proves that you DO know what you are doing and shows you have a finger on the pulse of your program and are able to detect possible obstacles to growth when they are still in its infancy. Conducting a litmus test isn’t revealing your weakness; on the contrary, it is validating your strength.
  2. As difficult as it is, prepare your mindset to be open to change. It is vital that you separate your emotions from the project, process etc. I know this is a HUGE ask. When you have poured your heart and soul into a program or project, and are passionate and care about it so much, and it is finally starting to be self sufficient, why would you want to rock the boat? I ask you, however, what is the harm in questioning it? If you end with the same conclusion, great! No harm done. However, if you take a look at it and discover something new, voila! Your program is escalating and on the way to a better place. It is truly a win / win scenario.
  3. Seek out colleagues in the same profession across various industries to put a fresh set of eyes/perspectives on it and ask for feedback. For example, if you are an HR professional, collaborate with other HR professionals from different industries such as Finance, the Arts, Marketing etc. You may learn different practices that can apply to your industry. This serves a dual purpose becuase not only are you open to feedback to improve, but by sharing what you are doing you are learning from each other resulting in the elevation of both of your programs
  4. Is what you are doing scalable? Meaning, does your process allow for, or stunt, the growth of your program? Even if your process is working flawlessly (good success), if it comes to a halt if you aren’t involved in it (great success inhibited), you should take another look at it . Dare I say it, you should be able to go on vacation for a month and the program/process still run efficiently.
  5. It is not enough to be open only to new ideas. Dare I say, be open to old ideas….. presented through a new lens. If you hear yourself saying, “we did that already and this is why it didn’t work”..don’t stop the sentence there. Continue by adding….”and I am interested to hear how you would approach it and why you think it may work”. Yeah, and don’t be condescending about it. Say it with genuine interest like you really mean it. You never know what you may learn!

Listen, working for an organization or running a program for a long time can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you become a savant regarding how to solve recurring challenges in your program. Solving them becomes a matter of muscle memory because you have encountered them so often you can spot them a mile away and navigate said obstacles with your eyes closed….like eating and driving a stick shift…you don’t even remeber shifting gears! A curse becuase sometimes for that exact reason, we can unconsciously develop blinders and tunnel vision for your programs and fall into a routine that no longer allows for spontanity or the possibility of a different, perhaps more efficient way to solve a recurring challenge.

I challenge you to strive for GREAT success. Sometimes that means, well let’s be frank, all times that means being uncomfortable, and worse yet, vulnerable (ewe yuck). Imagine, however, the growth your program will experience, and most importantly the IMPACT your program will have on the community and the clients you serve….which is literally why we are all in this anyway right?

They call it growing pains for a reason. Grow forth and be vulnerable my friend. See you at the top.

Nicole Smith speaking at TLCC 2019

Nicole (@nicolersmithnet) is a Panamanian-American, workforce development specialist, dancer, motivational speaker and published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams and the 101 Affirmations Journal Series. She attended Oral Roberts University on a Division I full-ride track scholarship. After graduating, she founded Step It Up! Inc., a non-profit dance organization. Her experience in sports and entertainment, radio, TV the performing arts and social services has spanned nearly 20 years covering the Chicago, Houston and Miami markets. She has danced and cheered for four Professional and Semi-Professional sports teams, has prepared more than 800 interns to enter the workforce and has inspired crowds upwards of 2000. She received the Emerging Leaders ALIVE Impact Award for volunteer administrators, was listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You” , and was selected as one of Legacy Miami’s MOST PROMINENT AND INFLUENTIAL BLACK WOMEN IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY OF 2019. She sits on the Board of the Association of Leaders In Volunteer Management and Ageless Chic Magazine.




Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.

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Nicole R. Smith

Nicole R. Smith

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.

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