Theory of evolution: the perception of success and comparing ourselves against benchmark reference points

Theory of evolution: the perception of success and comparing ourselves against benchmark reference points

Last week I was delivering training to sales agents in an IT company and we had a bit of fun trying to come up with innovative ways of describing virtualisation and things like cloud computing to people that have absolutely no technical grounding, understanding or background. We came up with some real fun pizza oven examples in addition to the existing laundry analogy from a few weeks prior; but at the same time it hit me that when we mention success we actually hit the same conceptual misunderstanding as virtualisation and cloud computing.

Think about it… what does success mean to you? Ask another 5 people that you know and they may all have a different definition and opinion of what it means for them. In actual fact I even think virtualisation has a more defined description than success for that matter. As I have been coaching clients this week with the start of a new year being a topical time for new goals and re-visiting of old goals, I also came accross a good few success stories.

One client doubled his income in what is called a recession and his is based on turnover alone and not just thanks to cost-savings and staff re-adjustments. Another client managed to remain calm and in control throughout a period of extreme conflict in her personal and business life. A person returning to work after an extended health related break due to bullying in the workplace managed to hold their first team meeting in a productive manner. A start-up client took redundancy and has hit the ground running in a completely new line of work.

This is just a flavour of what my clients call success. Today I had another interesting discussion about it with a client. She asked me is it just these days that we are so much more aware of what we don’t have that we have this consistent need to achieve and change etc.? When I spent a few minutes thinking about it, I have to say we or better the human race probably always had reference points and pecking orders even in tribal days. Debating it even further we actually concluded that even in animal tribes this exists and that there is an innate drive to achieve or ‘become the leader of the pack’. Our acceptance or rejection levels of leadership have in my view definitely changed, but I do believe we all came with an inborn need to achieve, why else would we bother to learn anything more than pure survival skills?

Going back to success as a concept for a business owner this once again has to be observed within the confines of a market place, an industry, the internal resources available, personal skills of the owner, etc.. So for a solopreneur in the service business global domination may not be the most realistic goal without team development, however they can probably achieve local leadership in the local market place. As one of my clients put it: ‘do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?’

With all the pressure and overuse of the terms ‘goals’ and ‘new year resolutions’, I am asking all of my clients this year to pick one overal reason for existing in their business segment. What is your one big mission and purpose for doing what you do? Why are you here? Gone are the days where I encouraged people to look at all areas of their life and set equally big targets in each of them, most of them ended up disappointed. So I decided a few years ago to go back to basics with clients and help them set goals for as many areas as they felt were important and then to narrow it down to 1 or 2 key focus targets, which is easy to manage and deliver on. When thy achieve one, then I ask them to celebrate and move on to the next most important one or a new one as priorities often change over time and circumstances.

After the 1 big target has been chosen the actions to go with it become even easier to distill and staying on track is simpler to manage for the individual. It is also amazing when you set your sails to one destination how other random distractions become irrelevant.

My big target for this year is to be known to deliver results with clients in the professional service industry. What is your 1 big aim for 2010?