This successful manufacturing business had created a niche that generated significant opportunity for growth. After several years of increased profitability, the business had suddenly experienced two flat years. While the business remained highly profitable, the ambitions of the key stakeholders were being frustrated. Despite immense drive and energy, the business appeared to be stuck.
We worked with the chairman and chief executive, who were both shareholders in the business. During the second session, an innocent remark about feeling that the company needed to do more in terms of its social and charitable contributions, opened up a whole new arena. What became evident was that the company had fixed ideas of what acceptable success constituted and what excessive success represented. We explored this in terms of the prevailing culture. It was recognised that within the UK environment, a certain amount of success is tolerated, but too much success can be seen as vulgar. It is also perceived to attract envy and attack from others. This UK environment could be compared to other cultures; for example, in the US, there is a greater tendency towards celebrating success and the view that the greater the success, the better.
In this particular company, we discovered an unconscious embarrassment and awkwardness about being seen as too successful. There was a perception that their success was hurting other companies in the sector, those using old technology. It was important to allow all these beliefs, values and perceptions to be aired without judgement. As we worked through this process, there was a tangible release of new energy to allow the business to reach its full potential. Within months, the business attracted substantial new orders, and there was an exponential growth curve over the next two years.
Just as there are many rings in the trunk of a tree, there are many layers of value embedded in the different groups that constitute our environment. It starts with an individual, expands to a small team, a larger group, the organisation, the dominant culture and the global geo-political landscape. Each and every one of these groupings can be affecting the repressed dynamic of an individual and an organisation.
One of the outcomes with this business and its executives was that there was a significant shift in perception from believing that their excess success was damaging others, to seeing that their increased success created success for others.