Success — A Matter of Perspective

If you are a leader, whether a leader in your community, a leader of a business, or even a leader of the household, success is something that is undoubtedly on your mind. If you are like many, the past year has challenged our definitions of success. Sometimes success may be simply getting out of bed in the morning. Other days success means accomplishing a great task such as immunizing 1,000 people in one day through a vaccine clinic. We have all been tested and with these tests, our definition of success may have shifted over time. 

What does success mean to you? 

If you were to look up the definition of Success, you would find something like this, ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose’ or ‘Being successful means the achievement of desired visions and planned goals.’ Simple, right?! But not so easy!  

What does success really look like? As the leader of an organization or team (or even a family), what is your definition of success and how do you communicate that across the organization? More so, how do you engage others in your vision and empower them to achieve the goals set forth? How do you know your vision is as important to others as it is to you? Rallying a large number of people around a shared vision is not an easy task. It requires clarity, focus, communication, connection, empowerment, and passion. 

Start with the end in mind

Let’s start with the end in mind. Much like the practice of visualization, it is important to visualize and fully embody not only the picture of success but more importantly the feeling and impact of success. The picture of success to your stockholders might be the profits shown on your P&L, and the picture of success to your customers might be the next iteration of your innovative product design. Behind these pictures of success are feelings and impact to those your organization touches.  

So how do you measure success and what does it ultimately look like and feel like? And more importantly perhaps, how does your success impact others? It is critical that you as the leader clearly establish and communicate your definition of success. 

A purpose to an end

Think about the purpose of your organization and how you personally connect to that purpose. In coaching a new CEO of a community health center recently, I asked her to think about her many priorities in terms of the mission, vision, and values of the Center. Of all the goals and priorities in front of her, I challenged her to determine which one alone would drive the greatest success toward their mission and align deeply with her own personal purpose. As this Center is a ‘one-stop shopping’ concept for healthcare services, her quick response indicated that integrated access to care was the keystone to success. Each step and obstacle that is removed for the patient, is also a cost saving step for the Center and creates an environment that serves both the Center and the patient better. Rather than having siloed disciplines where patients must jump through hoops to make appointments for different services, it is in everyone’s best interest to create a seamless interaction for patients. This will allow the Center to attract more patients, provide more complete care, increase efficiency and effectiveness of care, and increase patient quality scores. All of this then impacts patient satisfaction, employee engagement, community health, and the bottom line of the Center….oh and….may just save a life or two! Now that is success.

A measure of success that speaks to all

You see how success is a matter of perspective. To for-profit organizations, a measure of success is often the profit margin. Meanwhile, to clients and employees the perspective may include more intangibles with ROI being less of a factor than customer service, product quality, and organizational culture. While it is essential to incorporate financial metrics as one of the benchmarks, it’s also important to consider other metrics such as employee engagement, customer satisfaction, impact to the planet, and social responsibility. All are valid perspectives, and when combined, an organization can achieve a level of success that truly makes a difference in the eyes of all stakeholders. This creates a force that will propel the mission statement far beyond spreadsheets while building alliances that will endure beyond the inevitable vicissitudes of business.

My story of the CEO of the community health center highlights how important it is to define success as it relates to the mission, vision and values of the organization, and connects to you and your leaders personally. Once success has been defined, the next steps are to engage others around it, create systems and processes that will support it, and build a culture to sustain it.

Join me in an ongoing series of articles and blog posts that promise to guide you and your executive team through the complexities of organizational, team, and personal success, regardless of the industry you lead!

Gretchen Reid

Founder and Principal of Integrated Growth
Gretchen has 30 years of experience working with teams
and organizations in the areas of strategic planning, team effectiveness,
organizational development, and executive coaching.