Success Needs to Be Redefined

The problem with the current dominant leadership and business paradigms is that their definition of success has serious limitations. These models of financial gain at high costs, of quarterly results, and immediate gratification are not sustainable. Not only are they not maintainable, they don’t really take advantage of all the real benefits available to us from working together in organizations. We are leaving ‘currency’ on the table, if you will. We can have more.

I’m putting success into question because as a conscious leader you need to know what that word means for you, as well as for the people you work with, in order to fully optimize performance. Success is a very personal thing. I have a bias for socially responsible organizations and those that pay attention to the health and welfare of their employees. I’m also a huge fan of learning, making a good living, having fun, and loving what I am doing. But that’s just my version of success. The right version of success for you might be different. The version of success for your company will certainly contain some differences.

I met one leader who was pretty clear on all the things that made her tick and feel successful, except she didn’t see how one of her criteria, being liked and accepted, was also a potential liability. At the time we discovered this, we were discussing a staff member who was having performance issues. As we explored the various options and actions she could take, it was clear that she was hitting a limitation. She didn’t want to give the hard feedback needed because she was afraid to lose this talented, but abrasive, employee. Upon reflection, we discovered that her hesitation was founded on her concern that if she was truthful, the other person’s feelings would be hurt and they would not ‘like’ her anymore. If they didn’t like her, they would work elsewhere.

A couple of flaws in this logic flow. First, if a good performer really wants to be even better, they need feedback. Like a good athlete needs a good coach. Second, if she put her need to be liked (which makes her feel successful) before the need for that person and the company to be successful overall, everyone would eventually lose. It’s all about the art of finding the sweet spot, the win-win. When she saw that she was making this too personal and took a more strategic view, her options and choices became much easier. One of the reasons why that was true for her is that she also cared for and valued her customers’ experience and that success criteria outweighed her need to be liked.

Here’s the invitation, think about what success is for you and your company. Start by asking, how do you measure yourself as a leader? We have all sorts of indicators we use to gauge ourselves. Take a few minutes to think of 2-3 past experiences that you considered successful. What made you feel that way? What brought you satisfaction and motivated you? Pay attention, especially if you find that in several incidences your criteria of success were the same. These are likely important to you.

Repeat that process with the members of your team and then start thinking of your company as a whole. Notice what people actually DO as well as what they say. If the two are congruent, great. If not, then there might be a little more inquiry needed to find what’s really driving things. Have fun with this and let me know what you discover.

Please comment below or contact me to discuss how we can redefine success in your business.