KAMPALA – “It is incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap. In the busy-ness of life; to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it is leaning against a wrong wall.” Stephen Covey
The word success to a person symbolises somebody getting what they possibly purposed to achieve in life. It signifies reaching the top, may be winning!
However, success is a journey and success is relative. Nonetheless, let us look at two aspects of it. As an individual in a career and an organisation that is out there trying to achieve its goals and purpose.
For the individual, we all look out to do what is best for us, we study hard, seek to achieve a good degree. After the degree, we find a good job in our career and go out and seek to be the best in our profession. As a successful person, you are that person that stands out in society.
They look to you when there is an issue to be solved. In the social life you are the type of person who contributes some money to everything. You are the type of person who will be called upon to do things for the society, if there is a fundraising you are the one to be there, if there is opening of something you are available. You are generally the kind of person that society looks up to. This is success but it has the limitations of the “success syndrome.”
For organisations, some people go out and work so hard to be able to achieve the organizational goals. The organisation emerges as one of the leading organisations in its area. Take a case of MUBS, “it” has worked so hard, the people have worked so hard to create a very good institution and everybody out there looks at MUBS as a wonderful institution. But MUBS like any other organisation may suffer the success syndrome if they don’t watch out for the problems success brings.
For the individual, what happens in the success syndrome is that society imposes on you various demands. You are the type of person who is going to be able to do everything and what are the consequences? The consequences are that you don’t have time to do everything that you are supposed to do and society starts looking at you suspiciously. You do not have the resources to be able to go round to satisfy all those people who need the resources from you, it could be money or your services.
These are signs of the success syndrome.
For instance, Parliamentarians in Uganda have a problem. Once you are a member of Parliament, you have succeeded and you fall into the success syndrome. Whoever loses a relative on the village, it is you to pay for the expenses. It is you to pay school fees for everybody in the constituency when cannot afford. In the process, your success will take you down.
For people in the professions, the nature of the society is that someone who is out there with a job, with a car, that person has succeeded and should start bearing society’s problems and this is the success syndrome. This person starts spending resources over a large number of people and activities and in the process the person himself may start borrowing money, may start living a bad life and may start reflecting badly on society because this person succeeded.
So, in our careers we should watch out for the success syndrome and to be able to watch out means you may have to isolate yourself from your people and this is not what our society thinks like. We are collectivists society unlike the Europeans who are very individualistic. So, the success syndrome will bring you down simply because you succeeded and have to meet all society’s problems. To be able to survive, you have to watch out for the challenges that success brings with it. You should have the courage to, now and again say No.
On the other hand, if the organisation has succeeded, it is much simpler to avoid the success syndrome if the leadership attempts to keep the staff in line with the goals of the organisation and values of the organisation.
Organisations are easier to shield from people and society. An organisation that succeeds can give back to society in a planned manner without affecting its performance. But it is common also that the success syndrome may affect it. Take a case if the employees stop giving good value services to customers, if the employees start mistreating the customers, if the organisation itself is unable to treat its employees well. Then people in the society will start looking at the organisation as being unfair and this is one of the ways in which the organisation will start coming down. So, an organisation that succeeded may become a victim of its own success or methods of work, this is the success syndrome. How do you avoid it?
As you climb the ladder of success, check occasionally to make sure it is leaning against the right wall.
Author; Maureen Tweyongyere is the Director, MUBS Career & Skills Development Centre and
Member, National Task force on Labor Productivity