What’s Your Metric for Success?

Kathryn Scanland Metrics, Strategy

Definition of success? I could lose everything and truly be okay with it. ~Tony Hsieh, billionaire and CEO of Zappos

This idea of a metric for success was suggested by someone this past week on Facebook regarding our current political dilemma. I have to admit, I do wonder what our various senators and congressmen are using as their metric for success given the decision making we’ve observed. Is their metric for success re-election? Pleasing a very specific and small group of constituents? To be on the winning side? Self-promotion? Doing what’s best for the most people? Who knows? But it certainly did cause me to ponder the question: What’s my highest metric for success? And, how much is my ego driving my metric?

I’ll openly admit that I have been a casualty of our culture when it comes to measuring my success. I let external expectations of success influence many of my decisions. For years, in my little company of Greystone Global, I had numerous staff, multiple locations, etc. These are all symbols or metrics of success in the consulting world. The real truth is, when I first started in the consulting business more than 17 years ago, I wanted to be an independent consultant. That never changed. However, I allowed my ego to get the best of me and I did all of the things that others told me I was supposed to do to be a “success.” I had multiple staff, multiple locations, traveled across the country to clients from coast to coast. But those metrics of success weren’t bringing me fulfillment.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, I was busy, but busy (along with the staff, locations, etc.) wasn’t the metric for success that really mattered to me. I wanted to be able to look back on a year of consulting and coaching and point to specific scenarios where organizations were healthier, dollars were being spent more effectively, people were achieving personal goals, and teams were thriving. In order for that to happen it could mean (or even require) that I wasn’t overly busy and it really didn’t demand the locations, staff, travel, etc. So, as staff either retired or wanted to make other changes I chose not to replace them. I pursued client relationships that didn’t require extensive travel, and I function from one small but efficient office space.

My highest metric for success? Did I develop a relationship and do work with each of my clients that could in some way push the world a little closer to wholeness? I honestly believe that I have a better shot at achieving this metric for success by ignoring what culture dictates as my metrics of success. But, that requires a lot of fortitude to put my ego aside; because while I may have changed my metric for success, our culture has not. So I still get asked the same “success” questions like: Are you busy? How many staff do you have? Are you traveling a lot? It’s not unheard of, but on a rare occasion I get asked something like: What have you been able to help some of your clients achieve in the past year?

My intent was not to ramble on about my own metric for success, but to challenge each of us to be really honest with ourselves. How do we measure our own success? If you’re not sure, then look at the decisions you are making – not your aspirations – what you are actually doing. What we actually do or decide, is the real indicator of our metric for success, not what we’d like to do.

Is your metric of success honestly bringing you fulfillment? If not, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate. But please, don’t take 15 years to make it right, like I did.

Dr. Kathryn Scanland is the president of Greystone Global LLC, a consulting firm focusing on strategic planning, leadership development and organizational design. This post is republished with permission from Tuesday Mornings.

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