What does success look like?

For some people, success means having a fancy car or a big house.  For others, it might be finding a perfect balance between work and home life.  For yet others, it might mean being able to afford exotic holidays.

People are different and are motivated by different rewards.

When you’re leading a team, one huge challenge  is identifying what motivates the different individuals within that team.

A bigger challenge is being able to communicate clearly how an individual will know what success means for their job or area of responsibility.

Many years ago, I surveyed the staff of a somewhat dysfunctional organisation.  One of my questions was, ‘When doing your job, how would you know when you’ve been successful?’

Most could not answer this. They had not thought about the real purpose of their role, why their job existed, or how the company would benefit from employing them.

There needs to be a reason for the existence of every role in a company and there needs to be an expected outcome for each role. That’s how success can be measured – that’s where the company receives its return for the wages and salaries it’s investing.

A useful exercise that’s often set for people in start-ups or small businesses aiming to grow is to get them to draw the organisation chart they feel will be appropriate to their business in (say) 5 years’ time. This exercise helps business leaders define the roles a business needs to foster growth – rather than simply hiring someone else to do more of the same.

What’s more difficult, but probably even more valuable, is to apply a similar discipline to existing businesses. Break the business down and look at each area:  Why does this function exist? What’s the purpose of this role? What does success look like in this job?

That can easily lead to a realisation that an organisation is shaped around the skills and personalities within it. How the organisation has developed is not the culmination of premeditated design but the result of happenstance and unplanned growth.

Those same factors could well explain what’s preventing further growth. That’s why it’s important to ask defining questions – identify goals for each role and what success in achieving them looks like, then consider how they align with the goals of the organisation as a whole.

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