The Definition of Success

Jeff Gorman - Keller Schroeder PresidentJeff Gorman  – [President]

Quickly, name someone you consider highly successful.  Success is such an abstract concept, with wildly different definitions even within the same culture, that it is really challenging to get consistent answers to that prompt.  Some people will quickly conjure up names of leaders of large businesses.  Some people will default to celebrities from the entertainment or athletic world.  Still others will lead with a family member that has no exceptional level of wealth or celebrity status but had a profound impact on them.  While the word ‘success’ is readily understood, it’s scored abstractly for everyone based on what is most important to us personally.

If asking people to name someone successful can lead to answers that diverse, it stands to follow that asking employees if their team or business is ‘successful’ at a given point in time is likely to have a myriad of answers as well.  Successful teams, and therefore businesses, require clarity.  Part of clarity means success criteria are defined and leaders generate ‘buy-in’ on that vision.  If the business is not taking time to generate clarity and ‘buy-in’ on what it considers success to look like for the company, it can assume people are applying their own interpretation of success – and those views are not going to be consistent, which will lead to breakdowns in commitment and accountability.  The process of defining and reiterating that clarity is a critical task in the process of getting employees engaged in a common pursuit.  Those engaged employees, and the teams on which they participate, are the path to having a company which consistently pursues the same objectives, knows how that pursuit is progressing, and holds each other accountable for the process of achieving collective success.

If it feels like an employee, team, partner, or anyone else you have a relationship with is completely missing the mark with your expectations, consider how well you have shared in the process of creating support for a clear, shared definition of success.  What feels like a performance issue could possibly be as simple as leaving some portion of ‘success’ to personal interpretation.  Clarity and buy-in could be exactly what is needed to move the needle in a more positive direction.

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