Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Do You Have A Meaningful Relationship With Success?

If there’s one thing that many of us share as a common goal or objective it’s to be successful in our endeavours, whether it’s being successful in our career, helping to build a successful organization, or being successful in our efforts to raise happy and fulfilled children.

Of course, while we all aim for success and get inspired from reading or hearing about the successes others have achieved, a recent conversation with a friend brought to mind thoughts about how we define what success means for ourselves and for those we lead.

Michael is the president of a small business company he started seven years ago after being laid-off from a company where he worked for almost a decade. As is the case with most entrepreneurs, he started up his company not only to put his skills and experience to full use, but also to answer the lack of opportunities present in his industry by creating such options for himself. Of course, like most small business owners, Michael has endured his own share of highs and lows, but now his company appears to be entering that sweet spot we often associate with a maturing organization.

We got together recently for a cup of coffee to catch up and share stories about our kids and work. During our chat, Michael told me about some of his team’s recent accomplishments and other developments underway after which I congratulated him for the successes his organization had achieved.

While he thanked me for the kind words, he seemed more distracted than satisfied and so, I asked him what was wrong. Michael said that although he was proud of his team’s efforts and happy that his organization had attained these objectives, he didn’t feel as successful as those around him were praising him to be.

He went on to tell me that while he wouldn’t want to go through the grief of starting a company again, when he achieved a goal or milestone in those first few years, he really did feel like he was successful. Now, though, he admitted that the attainment of these goals felt more like “part of the process of growing an organization” than something that would make you feel personally successful.

As we compared his past accomplishments with those made more recently, it was clear that while the scope might have grown, the significance of these accomplishments were the same in terms of where his organization was at in that moment of time. With this in mind, I decided to ask Michael the following question:

“If these accomplishments alone aren’t making you feel successful, what would? What is your image or vision of being successful at this stage in your organization’s development?”

Michael leaned backed in his chair and I could tell he was giving my question a lot of thought and his answer proved to be quite telling – ‘You know what, Tanveer. I’ve been so busy guiding my organization to achieve these goals just to stay ahead of our competitors that I’m not sure what a successful version of my company would be. I guess I just assumed that the more profitable we became, the more our share of the market grew, the more successful we’d be.’  He didn’t need me to point out how that assumption was turning out to be far from the truth.

While we both left our conversation that evening with much to think about, one thought that kept rolling in my mind was how the act of accomplishing a goal is not necessarily synonymous with feeling successful.

Certainly, there’s no question that one of the responsibilities of leadership is to create and effectively communicate the vision you have for your organization; of what you’d like your team to accomplish and how. But after my conversation with Michael, I began to wonder how many leaders include in that vision a statement of how their team should define success.

Of course, when we talk about success in business terms, the obvious ones are being profitable, becoming one of the dominant players in your field, and/or getting your latest products/services out well within the planned time frame. And yet, if you think about it, are these really the measures of success or are they more the means by which organizations can fulfill the purpose behind why they exist?

Let me share another, more personal example. The beginning of this month marked my third year of writing this blog. When it comes to the blogosphere, it’s a given that the majority of blogs end up being abandoned sometime in the first year because those behind it either couldn’t sustain it or weren’t seeing the results they wanted. So being able to reach a milestone like keeping a blog actively running for three years is certainly a big accomplishment and for some, a sign of a successful blog.

And yet, aside from mentioning it here, I haven’t made much of a deal about this for the simple reason that, while blogging for three years is certainly an accomplishment, it’s not how I personally define whether I’ve been successful or not. It’s not that I’m trying to be humble about it. It’s just that how long I’ve blogged – and will continue to blog – is not the source of what motivates or compels me to keep writing for my site.

After all, our strongest motivations are not derived from our wants, but from that internal drive to fulfill our needs, one of which is knowing that what we do matters and is meaningful beyond our narrow circle of influence or scope.

It’s why so many studies have proven that trying to motivate employees with financial gains has limited effect because our motivation to accomplish something is driven not by achieving that which we’re told by others we should desire. Instead, the willingness to push ourselves forward and to face obstacles or challenges head-on is due to our awareness that in so doing, we will help to satisfy this inner need within us.

While I hope Michael’s new-found awareness will help him to get back on track to doing what he was meant to do, as opposed to doing what others perceive he should, his story is a valuable reminder for each of us to take the time to ensure that the goals we’ve set for our organization and for ourselves are not only meaningful, but that they answer the purpose of why we do what we do.

In so doing, we will not only attain that feeling of success we all long for, but also the sense of fulfillment that comes from being truly successful.

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16 Comments
  1. On June 30th, 2011 at 4:38 AM jasbindar singh said:

    Right on, Tanveer! Thanks for the excellent post.

  2. On July 1st, 2011 at 3:41 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Jasbindar. Glad you enjoyed this piece.

  3. On June 30th, 2011 at 8:36 PM Tracy F. Presley said:

    Success is really hard to achieve…It always requires patience and persistence in everything you do…Anyway, thanks for the blog you have posted.

  4. On July 4th, 2011 at 3:35 AM Merc Ding said:

    Hi Tanveer…Success can be defined in many ways…That is why it depends from people of what is success for them…I have already proven that based on my friends opinion…

  5. On July 11th, 2011 at 7:43 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Merc,

    I agree that success can be defined, and measured, in many ways. The problem is that many of us don't take the time to define, for our team, our organization and even ourselves, what it means to be successful. A key consideration, of course, is not to simply rely on the expectations of others but to find that definition which helps to fulfill the vision you have of the desired outcome.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  6. On July 4th, 2011 at 11:09 PM Bettie J. Brown said:

    Hi Tanveer…Thank you for sharing this blog to us…We all know that people want to be successful in their chosen field…This can be great tips for them…

  7. On July 11th, 2011 at 7:52 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Bettie.

    I'm glad you found this piece helpful and informative.

  8. On July 11th, 2011 at 7:44 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Sue! That’s very nice of you to say; appreciate it.

  9. On July 11th, 2011 at 7:58 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Glad to hear it, Kimmy and thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  10. On July 12th, 2011 at 7:40 AM James said:

    Thanks for this excellent post Tanveer, I agree with you.. Kudos!

  11. On July 15th, 2011 at 11:36 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks James; glad you enjoyed it.

  12. On September 19th, 2011 at 4:22 AM Chris Glennie said:

    Tanveer
    This is terrific (I know it's a bit old but just discovered it). I'm in the process of trying to define success for myself, and this has helped a lot. And congratulations on the 3 years blogging!
    Chris

  13. On September 19th, 2011 at 9:55 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Chris; I'm glad to hear that this piece is helping you with the process of defining what success would mean for you personally. It's incredible to see the number of people who don't have a clear vision of what success would mean for them; too often it's either something that this defined by outside parameters (eg, this is what people around tell me is what they think makes me successful) or tha it's tied to something trivial or short-sighted. It's a tough process, but I'm sures that you'll feel the benefits – both professionally and personally – from taking it on and mapping this out for yourself.

    Thanks by the way for the congratulatory wishes, Chris. Appreciate it.

  14. On October 5th, 2011 at 12:50 AM Sheryl M. Chiesa said:

    I don’t think success can be measured. I think success is defined by your expectations, aspirations, and attitudes towards reaching them. I also don’t think success is ever an end result, because no one ever reaches a junction and decides to stop trying. That seems to be the way of things. It’s rather like evolution.

    ~Sheryl

  15. On October 5th, 2011 at 10:38 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Sheryl,

    While I agree with you that success has a qualitative aspect to it, I disagree that success can't be quantified or measured. After all, how would you know that you've been successful if you don't have some clear markers or goals that help you to see you've been successful in your effort? Also, consider in a team setting when a certain target has been reached. If we left it up to each individual to define whether the effort was successful, would all participants actually see it as a success? Not likely, because they would all be relying solely on their own interpretation (qualitative approach) to determine whether it was a success. However, by having a clearly defined and measurable target, there's no question of personal bias determining whether it was a success or not.

    I do agree with you that success should never be perceived as an end destination. Certainly, we've seen several examples of people and organizations which attain success and then rest on their laurels only to get left behind. A better approach is to view success as the attainment of a goal or objective which validates that we're on the right track to fulfilling our sense of purpose, but much like a marathon, it's only one marker of many on the trail we're meant to run.

    Thanks Sheryl for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  16. On October 19th, 2011 at 11:20 AM Analise said:

    Hi Tanveer,
    Personally, I believe that success is something that cannot be measured. Each person has his or her own definition of it. One person could view success as becoming rich, while another could view it as having a big family. One person's success is another person's failure, and vice versa.

    The definition of success is sort of like the definitions of love, or truth, or honesty, or any of those abstract concepts which we try to name. Each person feels differently about each of those things so there cannot be one set definition for any of them.

    Success is measured by one's self…and once you're dead, who can measure your success, aside from yourself, who is no longer there to measure it? Thus, success cannot ever be measured; it is merely a concept which we all strive for and never reach.

    ps, this is an amazing site!

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