Success naturally makes you comfortable. You want to enjoy your success, so you tend to slow down... just a little, you let your focus slip... just a little, you play it safe... just a little. It might be hard to see this in yourself, but it's easy to see it in the world of sports. How many times have you seen teams lose their momentum and then lose the game because instead of playing to win, they began playing not to lose? They get ahead, but then they pull back and stop playing with the intensity that earned them the lead. In fact, twenty point lead swings are hardly uncommon in the NBA.
The same temptation traps business leaders. As you exceed expectations and hit your targets, your team might feel like they are cruising for their best year ever. Then, all of a sudden, you shift your focus from gaining momentum to sustaining momentum. The moment leaders change focus, momentum vanishes. Most teams just can't seem to "run up the score" on their opponents.
The challenge is that humans are all hardwired for comfort. In business, the stakes are high. Leaders who "grasp the past" are quickly left right there... in the past. Leaders who seize the moment to change are catapulted into a brighter future.
Here are a three steps to convert distressing moments of change into defining moments of change.
Find delight on your own discomfort.
The way to keep your momentum is to seek discomfort. This does not mean you are never satisfied with yourself or others. Rather, it will provide a healthy alertness of where you can improve. By delighting in this state of discomfort, you will be more relaxed and more likely to see creative ways to improve. In other words, it will help you stay on the offense and thrive versus playing defensively and merely surviving. By capturing this mental state of delighting in discomfort, you will easily be able to evacuate your comfort zones.
If you do not change, you limit your life and your leadership. Leaders who "delight in discomfort" say, "If you are always changing, it never feels like you are really changing." In other words, delighting in discomfort makes you comfortable with change. It defines the way you change.
When you feel like you are cruising to victory, take a look around... but not only at your opponents.
Look for anyone, any team, who is the very best at what they do. Compare yourself to them. What are they doing that makes them bigger, faster, better, smarter than you? Excellent leaders are never satisfied, never complacent.
It's easy to look at those you are beating and feel pretty good. Looking at those who you can learn from, those who might have better "game" than you do keeps you humble and focused on improving our own game.
Lead beyond the status quo--always focus on the next level.
Here is an acid test to determine if you are leading for the status quo versus the next level. If you can achieve your goals doing "business as usual," then your goals are not big enough and you won't get to the next level. Your goals should force changes, require tough decisions and inspire bold actions.
The next time you are feeling comfortable, enjoy the moment... but just a moment. Then, seize that very next moment to change!