How Do You Measure Success?

One of my favorite coaching questions is quite simple.  I ask clients to finish the following sentence:

“At this stage of my life success is…..”

By starting with a clear definition of what success looks like, we have a compass by which to measure their success.

But recently, I’ve started to notice an interesting pattern. Many of my clients, colleagues, and friends (and yes, even yours truly!) go after certain goals for one set of reasons, but then later measure their success against a completely different set of reasons or standards.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

One of my clients had set a goal of increasing the visibility of her business by getting lots of PR. So, we laid out a plan and she set about doing the things that would get her media interviews and lots of visibility.  And it worked like gangbusters!  In less than 90 days she had been featured in several prominent national newspapers, radio shows and even television.

And yet, she came to a coaching call declaring the visibility plan a failure. Curious, I asked her how she saw this as a failure when she was being featured everywhere and had become an in demand expert to the media. She shot back “Well, I’m not making much more money than I was before all this media attention.”

Aha! A new standard of measuring success was sneaking in. She initially said her goal was “to get lots of visibility” and she got exactly what she asked for.  But now she was realizing she had a “secondary goal” to increase her revenue.  The problem was that she hadn’t actually put a plan in place to convert all the media attention into revenue because she never stated that goal.  She was missing a step in her process because she hadn’t clearly defined how she would measure success.  Once we fixed that issue, and she made just a couple of small changes to her focus that she had a system for turning the attention into business, she brought in several new clients and had a week of record revenues.

That’s the power of really having a clear definition of success, and then taking simple, straightforward actions to achieve it.

Another great example happens quite often with my executive career clients. They usually come to me after having taken a job that was their “dream job” and yet they are feeling frustrated, dissatisfied and discouraged.

Turns out, they went after the job because of the title, salary and prestige of the position—which they got. But now they are measuring success in the role against things like work/life balance, love of the work itself, the people they work with, and the challenge. It’s those things that aren’t measuring up and they feel like they’ve failed. But the truth is, they just weren’t totally clear on what success for them was . Once they understand how they really measure success, they can easily get their career back on track.

So my point is this…be really clear about how you are measuring success in your life, and make sure the actions you take are toward that complete picture.

And if you find yourself frustrated or dissatisfied with where you are…look back and see what you set out to accomplish in the first place.  My best bet is that you have accomplished what you set out to accomplish, but now you are measuring it against different standards of success.  So, it’s probably time to upgrade your ‘success standards’ and get them in alignment with what matters most, now.

Coaching challenge: take a few minutes right now and answer this question:

“At this stage of my life/career/business success is…..”

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