A few weeks ago, I shared with my various networks an article from Forbes on the ten resolutions successful people not only make but carry out. While the list provided some valuable points, what was more noteworthy was the discussions this piece generated with a few of my colleagues about the nature of success.
These conversations revealed an interesting paradox. Namely, that while we have no problems identifying successful organizations or individuals, we have a harder time defining what a successful version of our own organization would look like.
Granted, most of us are rather effective at developing strategies and goal-setting. And yet, how many of us have a clear definition or vision of what a successful version of our team/organization would look like? What would it take for us to feel successful in the long run beyond simply achieving our goals or targets?
Here are a series of questions you can use to start a dialogue with your team to help figure this out:
1. How does this fit in with our organization’s values?
One of the reasons why we have a harder time defining success is because many of us are still operating from a reactive standpoint – where our decisions and actions act only in response to what we see our competition doing or as a result of what we encounter or experience.
Another reason is that most discussions on successful organizations or individuals focus more on the various steps and actions they took to achieve the goals for which they are now lauded, without appreciating the context behind why they were compelled to attain these outcomes.
In both cases, one key element that we fail to take into consideration is our values; of those attitudes and beliefs that not only define what we stand for, but which also serves as our moral and ethical compass to help us determine which actions would allow us to attain our goals with integrity.
Achieving success in the long run requires a mindfulness in ensuring that the goals or targets you set forth don’t conflict with the values and shared purpose of your organization. To do otherwise will not only impact the level of engagement your employees commit to this effort, but it can also damage the level of trust they have in your direction and vision.
2. How will this help us to move forward with our shared purpose?
In addition to your values, another factor that should define what success looks like for your organization is how it connects to your shared purpose.
When it comes to success in business, it’s easy to focus on obvious measures like profitability, how much of a market share we’ve accrued, and whether we get our products/services out within or under the expected timeframe.
While these are critical for any business, it’s important to remember that these are merely the desired outcomes from your efforts. What’s required instead is the context of how it helps your organization to move one step closer to achieving your shared purpose, if you want to instill that sense of success often associated with those organizations and individuals we all respect and admire.
Framing these outcomes within the context of your shared purpose is also critical to fostering both a sense of ownership in your employees for their collective efforts as well as a sense of accountability for the outcomes created from those contributions.
This is what will allow your organization’s success to move beyond being something that benefits a select few to including everyone in your organization – because if they’re all committed to your shared purpose, moving one step closer to that goal becomes a success that everyone can enjoy and appreciate.
3. Why will this success matter?
This leads us to the final question and that is once you’ve ascertained whether this success honours your organization’s values and helps you move one step closer to your shared purpose, why will this success matter? After the accolades, attention and congratulations are gone, why will this matter to those you lead?
What will it create or instill in your employees to generate further momentum to keep at it? To fuel their resolve to achieve more or to surpass their present achievement?
For success to matter, it needs to go beyond the pragmatic measures of profitability, market share and so forth to connect to what matters to those you lead. It means that what we define as success is not only specific and tangible, but personal so that your employees will see it as being as much their success as it is your organization’s success.
In this way, your employees won’t simply feel successful by association. Instead, your collective success will also be viewed as their own personal success as well.
Success should also be something that’s not transitory, as is the case with most external metrics. Rather, success should also serve to inspire, empower and sustain the belief your employees have not just in your shared purpose, but in their collective abilities to do and be better.
These three questions can serve to not only encourage a dialogue about what success would look like for your organization, but they can also open up the conversation to discuss the nature and meaning behind your organization.
The simplicity of these questions also ensures that you don’t get bogged down in processes or methodologies, but focus instead on what ideas, insights and assumptions arise from the conversation.
For that reason, don’t feel concerned if the answers are not apparent or that they require much thought, deliberation and discussion with your team to discover the appropriate response.
The number one difference between a Nobel prize winner and others is not IQ or work ethic, but that they ask bigger questions. – Peter Drucker
Remember, that to be effective as a leader doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers. Rather, it means having the ability to ask the big questions – questions that encourage your employees to question their assumptions, that transform obstacles into challenges that can be overcome, and that enable your employees to believe in your shared purpose and their ability to achieve it.
So what does success really look like? As the questions above illustrate, that all depends on what you want to accomplish and in particular, why that goal matters to your shared purpose and to the internal drive for meaning found within your employees.