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不想毁了职业生涯?这件事千万别做

Steve Tobak 2016年07月25日

自负是企业失败最常见的原因。最可悲的是这一切原本可以避免。

我在科技业的第一位老板迪克是个备受尊敬的工程经理,上大学时在校橄榄球队打线锋,看上去就像宝洁公司旗下清洁品牌朗白先生一样,只不过没戴耳环。迪克曾经费劲心思教我,可惜我当时太傲慢,没领会他的心意。

大块头的迪克在办公室里贴了一张条子写着:“我可能不算聪明,但我肯定经验丰富。”有一天,我像搞恶作剧似地也打印了一张纸,写着“我可能不算经验丰富,但我肯定聪明。”然后贴在工位的隔板上。

迪克看到以后,摇摇头走开了。我记得当时以为,他肯定心情不好。后来我才意识到,他花了很多时间想让我这颗榆木脑袋明白:聪明反被聪明误,而且我太自以为是了根本意识不到。

我小小的恶作剧真是既可悲又讽刺,这完全是我的损失,其实影响不到迪克。

缺乏谦虚精神、或者说狂妄自大不仅会困扰颇有潜力的后辈,一些有经验的人也会碰到类似问题,原因我们后面细说。不管什么人遇到,后果往往都是很严重的。

要说过分自负曾导致许多管理者和企业失败可能还略显保守。根据我的经验,这是企业失败最常见的原因。可悲的是这一切原本可以避免。

在《只有偏执狂才能生存》一书中,英特尔公司前首席执行官安迪·葛洛夫警告说:“成功是自己的掘墓人。”事实上,人生最大的风险莫过于登上巅峰。因为所有的竞争对手都会奋力追赶你。你也可能因为自大而膨胀,结果爬得高跌得重。

安然、世通公司、Adelphia——一个个倒闭的巨头无异于一座座自大撑起的纸牌屋。这三起臭名昭著的丑闻都发生在互联网泡沫时代,当时市场泡沫由非理性繁荣催生,不过是狂妄自大换个说法罢了。

美国在线与时代华纳、斯普林特和Nextel、戴姆勒与克莱斯勒等注定失败的超级并购都是基于不切实际的设想,人们以为合并后起码不会比独立经营时差。尽职调查过程中双方在战略、企业文化和技术方面不合适等关键问题统统忽略。尽职调查的是为了尽量减少法律责任,殊不知只是为失败埋下伏笔。

企业家为何会根据错误的前提得出过于乐观的结论,忽视愿景或企划不一定能成功的关键证据和推断?行为狂妄只是表面,核心是过于轻视失败、将成功视为理所当然的奇葩想法。

血液检测初创公司Theranos就是个很好的例子。这家估值90亿美元的公司核心业务是一种独家技术,只需从患者手指取几滴血就能实时得到结果。遗憾的是,调查发现检测结果造假。该两年内数以万计的病人测试全部作废。Theranos自吹自擂的加州实验室失去了联邦政府的检测认证,监管机构还下令公司首席执行官伊丽莎白·霍姆斯行业禁入。

事后回想,其实Theranos留下了许多蛛丝马迹。公司核心技术一直秘而不宣,投资者,合作的连锁药店沃尔格林都无从了解,医学期刊上也没见过相关分析。外人不得进入该司实验室。该司的首位投资人、知名风投资本家蒂姆·德雷珀是霍姆斯一家的朋友,之所以投资是认为霍姆斯有类似苹果之父乔布斯的个人魅力。

或许最明显的迹象就是,去年霍姆斯接受时尚杂志Glamour采访时说:“我有幸成长在充满激励的环境里,从小我就相信没有什么做不到的。”我认为,年轻的霍姆斯可能把父母的鼓励太过当真。失去理智的自信在Theranos案例中随处存在,却像指纹一样肉眼难见。

就在Theranos露出真面目那会儿,我看到对查尔斯·科赫在一次采访中回忆,身为科氏工业集团创始人的父亲将首席执行官一职交给他之前说:“希望你的第一笔买卖失败,否则你会觉得自己无比聪明,实际上并不是。”

听起来,老科赫和我过去的老板是同样的用意。不过老科赫的儿子一定是听进去了,后来公司成长为销售额1150美元、员工达10万名的全球巨头。

才华横溢的新人缺少谦虚精神其实很正常,然而在变为成功领导者的过程中,总有一天会学会满招损谦受益的道理。要记得保持谦逊,未来的人生道路上有可能帮你大忙。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

My first boss in the tech industry was a highly respected engineering manager named Dick. A former college football lineman who looked just like Mr. Clean but without the earrings, Dick tried his best to teach me lessons that I was unfortunately too arrogant to appreciate.

The big guy had a sign in his office that said, “I may not be smart, but I sure am experienced.” One day as a prank I printed up a sign that said “I may not be experienced, but I sure am smart” and hung it on my cubicle wall.

When Dick saw it, he just shook his head and walked away. I remember thinking he must be in a bad mood. I later came to realize something he had been trying to get through my thick skull for the longest time: that I was too smart for my own good and too full of myself to realize it.

The sad irony of my little prank was completely lost on me, but apparently not on Dick.

Lack of humility or hubris doesn’t just plague young up-and-comers with more potential than they perhaps deserve. It’s also common among those with enough experience to know better but, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute, don’t. And the outcome is often catastrophic.

To say that exaggerated overconfidence has caused the tragic demise of many executives and their companies is a gross understatement. In my experience, it’s among the most common business failure modes. What makes it tragic is that it’s so easily preventable.

In his book, Only the Paranoid Survive (Crown Business, 1999), former Intel CEO Andy Grove cautions that “Success leads to its own demise.” Indeed, there’s no greater risk than being at the top of your game. That’s when all your competitors will be gunning for you. It’s also when your oversized ego is most likely to write checks that reality can’t cash.

Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia – some of the biggest corporate failures were nothing more than houses of cards held together by hubris. It’s no coincidence that all three of those infamous scandals took place during the dot-com era – a market bubble built entirely on irrational exuberance, which is just another way of saying hubris.

Doomed mega mergers like AOL-Time Warner, Sprint-Nextel and Daimler-Chrysler were all based on the unrealistic assumption that the companies involved would be at least as successful together as they were independently. Key issues like lack of strategic, cultural or technological fit were simply ignored in due diligence processes designed to minimize legal liability while rubberstamping a predetermined outcome.

What causes leaders to draw overly optimistic conclusions based on false assumptions, while ignoring critical evidence and reasoning that doesn’t fit their vision or plans? The behavior may be hubris, but at its core is a sort of magical thinking that takes failure far too lightly and success for granted.

Theranos is a perfect example. The company’s $9 billion valuation was based on proprietary technology that was supposed to deliver real-time diagnostics from a few drops of blood from a finger stick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Two years of tests on tens of thousands of patients have been voided, its vaunted California lab has lost its federal certification andCEO Elizabeth Holmes has been banned from the business.

In hindsight, there were plenty of clues. Shrouded in secrecy, the technology was never vetted by investors, partner Walgreens or peer-reviewed medical journals. Outsiders were never allowed in the lab. And the first investor, noted venture capitalist Tim Draper, was a family friend who was taken with Holmes’ Steve Jobs-like charisma.

Perhaps the most telling sign was something Holmes said in aGlamour interview last year, “I was blessed to grow up in an environment in which I was encouraged to believe that there was nothing I couldn’t do.” I think the young Holmes may have taken that parental encouragement just a little too literally. Irrational self-confidence is all over the Theranos mess like latent fingerprints.

Around the same time we learned that everything was not as it seemed at Theranos, I saw an interview where Charles Kochrecounted what his dad, founder of Koch Industries, told him before handing over the CEO reins. “I hope your first deal is a loser,” he said, “Otherwise you’ll think you’re a lot smarter than you are.”

Sounds like the elder Koch was cut from the same cloth as my old boss. His advice must have sunk in: his son grew the company into a global behemoth with $115 billion in sales and 100,000 employees.

While it’s not unusual for talented up-and-comers to lack humility, all successful leaders pick it up somewhere along the line. Make sure you do. It may very well save your butt down the road.

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