How Do You Measure Success?Posted 2/4/2008
By Deb Van Batenburg, AAM
In putting pen to paper and creating an outline for this article, I "Googled" the words "measuring success in business" to see what books were available. The results showed 364 matches. Clearly lots of people feel this is an important topic. The other thought that occurred was this: When we're running a business it is a challenge to have all the pieces fit together so it runs smoothly. That does not always allow time for business reading and with millions of resources where would we start?
Realistically the world isn't going to stand still while you conduct a detailed analysis of your personal success strategy. More likely, you probably have to conduct a detailed analysis of the broken car in Bay 2! But having a reasonably good definition of success for yourself, and a plan to take you to your destination with the least amount of detours, is what this article has to offer.
Simple ideas and practical approaches to measuring your success are presented here to help you.
The media and culture in general feed us definitions of success. Customers give us feedback about success. But sometimes, the traditional definition of "money, power, status," comes up short. It's worth the time to explore your own definition. Anna Quindlen, author and journalist, has a great quote that applies here: "If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all." Being clear about your own definition of success allows you to be able to measure it and make adjustments or changes based on what is truly important for you and your business.
So, how do you start that process? To get the most from this article, choose the exercise that fits where you are in your life and do it! They are all quick and easy. Then, when you have time or can make time (which I recommend), reflect on what you learned or relearned. Decide what you are willing to do about it, and then make a Success Plan. Make the plan doable with simple action steps. Be sure to have a way to evaluate the results. The goal is to be able to measure your success.
A good first step is to follow the advice of Marshall Goldman, an insightful and powerful business coach. He poses two questions in his recent book that help us look at our performance. Entrepreneurs have a skill set that allows them to be creative, to take risks, and to overcome obstacles, viewing them as opportunities. Goldman asks what he calls a simple but critical question: Are the very skills that got you where you are today damaging your current success or holding you back from having success as you define it now?
The second question builds on the first. He says, "You don't have to be wildly successful to change what doesn't work." The question is - are you willing to change what isn't working?
Wherever you are in your business and in your life, you can be more powerful and successful by answering these questions. If you are reading this but don't have time or are not inclined at the moment to go get paper and pen and think these through, then jot down whatever came to mind in the margins of this article. That way, when you do want to do it, you will know what came to mind.
To change what doesn't work so we can achieve the success we want is a two-step process. First, we have to admit that there are parts of our business that we are only tolerating. In the first step, I recommend you make a list of the things we are putting up with (no more than 10). In Step 2, pick the top three and commit to handling those with some type of boundary that you feel is achievable. Then pick the most annoying one - the thing that makes you feel unsuccessful and begin to change that one thing.
Make a simple chart for yourself, listing your action steps. Remember, keep it simple so you can win at this! Set your time limit and then honestly record the results. You will be amazed at how much more successful you feel.
The second exercise is called a "Gap Survey." To begin this exercise, pick eight or fewer things that you feel are vitally important for you to be successful and feel successful. List these with a space next to them so you rate them. First, rate yourself from 1-5 (1 is lowest/or least; 5 is best/or most) on the following two critical points: 1) rate yourself on how much you know about the subject and 2) rate yourself on what you are actually doing about that subject. The numbers will tell you your "Knowing-Doing Gap." You have just measured your success. The plan for more success is to start working right now on closing the gap.
Many of the resources I used warned of the trap of being a "Success Addict." It's a powerful visual image and doesn't need much explanation. Getting success at any cost is a price tag that should be avoided. My friend Trish Pratt, owner of Momentum Coaching, asks clients to check in with themselves around the term "Adrenaline Management." When we are too busy we move through our days without full use of our own inner guidance system. This may produce results and get the job done, but rarely is it a path to satisfying success.
The last exercise presented here is another practical self-evaluation. Many times, when faced with challenges personally and in business that are outside our control, we cling to what we know has brought us success in the past. We "stay the course." It is an old tried-and-true philosophy. But the real question that can lead to greater success is this: Is now the time to start changing the course? Write that down on three pieces of paper. Put them in strategic places where you can make notes. Leave them there for several weeks so you get to answer the question during different moods and circumstances. If you have a partner in the business, they should do the same exercise. You may discover more success is attainable through minor adjustments.
Owning a business provides an opportunity to overcome the emotional and financial challenges that make the difference between failure and success. These exercises can stimulate your thinking about the big picture of success. They can point you in the direction of satisfying all your core values. When the values that represent who you are can be fully satisfied, you are in the best position you can be to experience true success. Einstein said, "Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value."
Whether your business is new, middle-aged or has been in the family for generations, it is important to define success and achieve it, to have the satisfaction you were looking for when you first started the path you are on. Applying these ideas beyond the workplace can help you become better parents, siblings, and spouses. That is the success we all want.
Jeff Lovell, executive director of ASA-Washington, shared his favorite quote with my husband, Craig Van Batenburg, a few years ago. It hangs in our office here at ACDC, right above our master calendar. It says, "Success at the expense of faith, family and friends is failure." With that in mind, go forth and succeed!
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