The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Comfort Kills Character …

There’s a well-known phrase that says. ‘it’s easier to get to the top than to stay there’.

I couldn’t agree with it more.

That’s not to say getting to the top is easy, but staying there requires a very different mentality.

However, while it should mean you’re always pushing forward … looking for ways to push and provoke possibilities … understanding where culture is heading rather than where you wish it was … defining the future rather than just following it … a lot of companies do it in a very different way.

Abusing their scale.
Buying market share.
Pricing competitors out.
Focused on size not change.

But what makes this ‘optimise the position’ approach even more fascinating is that a lot of these organisations who are like this, were not like that in the beginning.

In fact, they were the polar opposite.

Founded on changing something in their industry they felt was wrong.

They wanted to create change by offering a real alternative.

Something that drove them and defined them.

Where over time, they became distinctive and definitive.

And then … the more comfortable they became, the less they could see what they were turning into.

Silencing the alternate voices that used to fuel their drive.

Replacing the misfits with the people who look just like them.

Seeing a point of view as alienating rather than a beacon for those they once served.

Looking at cost rather than value.

Optimisation over innovation.

But this isn’t just in terms of operational behaviour.

It also affects the people within the operation.

Playing politics more than performance.

Protecting their position rather than growing those around them.

Following the process rather than focusing on what they want to do … create … change.

It’s a question I love to bring up with clients.

Especially when we’re talking about brand and positioning work.

The good ones are open to the uncomfortableness of the conversation.

I’m not saying they like it.

I once asked it to the founder of a rather well-known, global sports brand and he DEFINITELY didn’t like it … but based on the hard, honest, passionate and open debate it stirred – let alone the shifts it later encouraged – it was definitely worth it.

As for those organisations who are too far gone?

Well, they tend to shut down that conversation very, very quickly.

Then try to position you as bad for daring to ask it.

That everything is perfect with them and you should respect them and embrace them.

Of course, asking that question is the ultimate sign of respect.

You’re putting yourself on the line because you do like them. You do want them to do well.

You have recognised something may be misbalanced and you want to help them get that back.

Which may explain why the vast majority of companies I’ve asked this question have been open to it.

That doesn’t mean it has always led to different actions or behaviours, but it has been something they’re willing to debate. And while some may consider this approach ‘career suicide’, the great irony is it has had a huge and positive impact on the majority of my client relationships … because they know I’ll always give them the truth and I know they will always give it the time.

So while I still believe it is harder to stay at the top than to get there … if it means you’ve turned into the beast you were created to slay, then ‘the top’ is really rock bottom.

13 Comments so far
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You’re on fire at the moment Rob. Great post again.
I love the phrase, “you’ve become the beast you were meant to slay.” I will be using that a lot in the coming weeks.

Comment by George

dont fucking encourage him.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m in shock he’s managed to write consistently good posts for so long.

Comment by George

Soooo long.

Comment by John

Congratulations on winning the ‘passive aggressive’ award of the year.

Comment by Rob

They do have a point Rob.

Comment by Bazza

I have forwarded this post to a number of people who need to read it. Thank you Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

you must really fucking hate those pricks.

Comment by andy@cynic

are you describing yourself here campbell?

Comment by andy@cynic

I guess I could infer a version of the question, but what is the actual question you ask?

Comment by John

Is the focus of the question on how they’ve changed or why they’ve changed or if they even know that they have changed? Or something else?

Comment by John

In my experience, they know they’ve changed they just want to deny they have.

Comment by Rob

Like the owners of the superleague clubs who probably think they look good as they back out with their greedy tails between their legs.

Comment by Pete

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