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How Do You Measure Success?

Fall has arrived, and that means many of us are taking stock and planning for the future. How do you gauge your successes? And where do you go from here?

It’s a topic Ned Herrmann thought about a lot, particularly as he looked at the journey of his own life and career. What follows is an excerpt from an article he wrote on “Rethinking Success.”

As you evaluate your own successes, as well as those of your team, employees, company or even your personal life, consider how your thinking preferences might affect your view. How might you expand your definition of success? How might failure contribute to future successes?

Suppose somebody asked you how you personally measure success. What would first come to mind? Would it be wealth and the trappings of wealth in our culture, such as a house? Car? Boat? Vacation home? College?

Do you think there is a culture where success is measured on the basis of the level of spirituality achieved? How about always doing things on time? Or putting enough salt on the movie theater popcorn to increase drink sales?

Would it be possible to live in a culture where equal levels of success can be achieved in a variety of ways? A golf pro? A thoracic surgeon? A kindergarten teacher? A university professor? A chief executive officer? A minister? A poet? A circus clown? A mountain climber? An architect?

The list extends to infinity, and each one of these vocations or avocations has its own success potential. Achievement could be based on financial performance, on-time delivery of a project, or facilitating a management workshop that results in needed change. Celebrating 50 years of a happy marriage qualifies, as does being named Teacher of the Year, or being a syndicated political cartoonist.

Even though these represent very different kinds of success, the comparative levels of achievement could be relatively equal. Delivering a high percentage of outstanding sermons might be just as success-worthy as winning a professional golf tournament, winning a big contract or running your business at an increased level of profit. Helping children and adults discover “who they will be when they grow up” is, in every way, as worthy as developing a life-saving medical breakthrough.

Since I believe the world is an equally distributed composite of four distinct thinking preferences, I have found it clarifying to diagnosis success in four different ways:

  1. Those among us who prefer logical, analytical, rational thinking processes like to measure success on the basis of quantifiable performance, such as money: How much? When? For how long?
  1. People who prefer organized, sequential, structured, detailed thinking processes tend to measure success in terms of on-time completion of an event: Did it happen the way it was supposed to? Efficiently? On budget? Were the proper steps followed/completed? Was it legal and ethical?
  1. People who prefer an interpersonal, emotional, humanistic way of thinking apply “softer” measures of success, such as: Were relationships improved? Did meaningful communications take place? Was learning achieved? Was help provided? Was happiness achieved?
  1. Those who prefer conceptual, imaginative, intuitive modes of thinking typically measure success in terms of solving problems and achieving creative “Ahas!” They value achievements that are unique, future oriented and global in concept, particularly when they involve overcoming risks to get there.

Success is frequently a combination of these four different thinking preferences, but in most cases, one particular preference takes the lead and determines how success is measured for that person.

Success can also be highly varied in terms of rewards and recognition, but in most cases, that determination is in the eye of the achiever. That particular accomplishment for that person, at that time, represents success for them personally, and it’s not in competition with another person’s success.

It is my belief that ultimate success for each of us is a combination of personal health, well-being and happiness. Easy to say, but often difficult to achieve.

In the meantime, perhaps we should all recognize and honor different types of success in ourselves and others, each and every day. We may be happier for it.

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Tags: Tips, Strategic Planning, Whole Brain Thinking

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