How to Overcome the Six Temptations of Successful Organizations

In 2003, my book, Up Your Business: Seven Steps to Fix, Build or Stretch Your Organization was published. Fortunately, the book did well and my publisher wanted me to write a revised, expanded version, which they published in 2007. The book does not promote fads, but timeless principles, and thus it continues to sell well today. As evidence that principles can transcend borders and cultures, Up Your Business has been translated into several languages including Russian and Chinese.


One of the chapter titles in Up Your Business is How to Overcome the Six Temptations of Successful Organizations. I’ve given speeches and workshops built around this important topic, and since business has been on the upswing for many of you, this should be a good time to review the pitfalls that can prevent a good organization from ever becoming great.


As you read over the temptations, I encourage you to evaluate them through this lens:


  • Has this temptation affected me, personally?
  • Which of my team members has been affected by this temptation?
  • Does evidence of falling for this temptation pervade the dealership overall?


In the interest of available space, I will present three of the six temptations, in no particular ranking of importance.


1. The temptation to stop working on yourself.


Successful leaders work hard on their jobs, but oftentimes they stop working on themselves. They can get so busy doing that they stop learning. In their quest to squeeze out more and more production, they begin to ignore the building up of their personal capacity to produce.


Evidence of falling for this temptation abounds:


  • You personally do not read the self-improvement books you once did. Perhaps you’ve dropped out of a twenty-group, or postponed educational seminars because business is doing pretty well and they don’t seem as necessary.
  • Training in your dealership has become ineffective and inconsistent. Worse, you accept weak excuses from your overrated managers that they don’t “have time” to train, or “can’t get my people to use the training” that you’ve purchased for them.  Sadly, you accept this nonsense because, overall, business is up.


2. The temptation to stop thinking big.

Have you ever watched your favorite football team jump out to a 21-point lead in the first half, and then lose the game? If so, it’s probably because their sudden prosperity drained urgency, they lost their killer instinct, and began sitting on the ball—playing too conservatively—rather than running up the score.


Has something similar happened in your dealership? Has your success caused you to slip back into a maintenance mode rather than stretching team members with daily goals, and forecasts that cannot be hit with a business as usual approach?


3. The temptation to stop holding others accountable.


One of the blessings of the recession of three years ago was that it forced people to reevaluate the mediocrity they had accepted from team members for too long. With their backs against the wall, newly focused leaders began redefining expectations, giving faster feedback, and removing the deadweight quickly. How soon we forget. As I visit dealerships today and look at the sales board, I too often see it crowded with “loyal” five-car Fred’s who sell at a rate that is 40-70% less than industry average. Managers and dealers defend and rationalize these laggards with the most pathetic excuses imaginable, failing to grasp the negative impact under-performers are having on their momentum, morale, culture, the customer experience, and their personal credibility.


Take a look at your sales board results over the past few months. Have you or your managers spent more time working around the wrong people than you have either getting them better or getting someone who is better? If you’ve already forgotten the lessons the Great Recession taught us about building a high accountability culture, will it take a Great Depression to make clear once and for all the danger of dropping dealership standards to accommodate the comfort zones of your worst producers, rather than to stretch those people to reach your standards?


In my next blog post, I’ll present the final three temptations. In the meanwhile, perform a quick audit by asking the three questions I mentioned previously. Then begin to make whatever adjustments are necessary to strengthen your culture and improve your operation, before the bottom falls out again. As JFK said, “The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.”  

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Comment by John Miller on October 14, 2011 at 1:17am

Thanks for Sharing Dave, 


You tell it like it is. 




Comment by Dave Anderson on October 12, 2011 at 1:40pm


I'm a Dallas fan and have already endured it twice this season! And I suspect we'll see more of it before the year is through.

Comment by Ryan Mills on October 12, 2011 at 12:25pm

"Have you ever watched your favorite football team jump out to a 21-point lead in the first half, and then lose the game? If so, it’s probably because their sudden prosperity drained urgency, they lost their killer instinct, and began sitting on the ball—playing too conservatively—rather than running up the score."

I am from Minnesota and thus a Vikings fan, so yes...uh hummm!  I've seen this. 


Great article as always.  Thanks Dave.



Comment by Marsh Buice on October 12, 2011 at 6:43am
Dave, great, relevant info as always. I appreciate your insight.
Comment by Pete Grimm on October 11, 2011 at 4:45pm

Great post, Dave. As you say, "Timeless."



Comment by Dave Anderson on October 11, 2011 at 12:10pm
Thank you William! Hope you enjoy it.
Comment by William Demaree on October 11, 2011 at 11:37am

Thanks for the quick Jolt dave. You are exactly on target. I catch myself loosing focus if I am not learning or growing. I miss the days of performance groups and 20 groups. That is how you succeed in this business. Looking forward to reading your book 

Comment by Dave Anderson on October 11, 2011 at 11:08am
Totally agree Kurtis. Prosperity drains urgency, weakens accountability, and dilutes focus. On the other hand, when the bottom falls out, or are in the building stages, we're normally on Red Alert and are ready to take whatever action is necessary to get results.
Comment by Kurtis Smith on October 11, 2011 at 11:00am
Dave - the thing that many of us do not realize is that we are most vulnerable after some form of success. These temptations are usually not a factor when we are creating or in the hunt, but they usually show up when we become complacent because we are comfortable. That is why for me, having a coach who I am accountable to is so important. Great Post.
Comment by Dave Anderson on October 10, 2011 at 8:47pm

Thank you Bobby. Maybe you can give your client a gentle jolt before they get too far off track! Always great to hear from you.


Take care,


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