There is a country music song entitled Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, recorded in 1993 by Pam Tillis. While the lyrics talk about a love relationship gone wrong (are there any country songs that don’t?), the title stayed with me because it reminds me sometimes of what I see in business.
What I observe is that both kings and queens of denial sometimes confuse optimism with denial. For example:
- “Yes we are losing money and if we get that next deal, we will turn things around for good.”
- “I know, Joe or Jane employee is not up to the challenge now that our company has grown, but I can make it work anyway.”
- “We have always done it this way, if we continue to do things this same way, things will change.”
- “Our business has grown about 4% YOY the last 10 years and this year, we will grow 20%, without any new capital.”
- “I know the industry has matured, and prices have fallen as a result, but if we keep offering customized services, we will be able to command a higher price.”
I am sure you can think of others. And, my further observation is that denial is a powerful drug. As with most other drugs, the user won’t stop using until he or she is ready. No one can tell us we are in denial, we must see it for ourselves. One benefit Vistage members have is their chair and their fellow members will keep holding up that mirror until one day, we do.