Measure of Success

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It’s not every day you get to talk to the parents of people you’re hiring or interviewing for job openings. We believe so strongly in the phrase ‘people over projects,’ that we always make it a priority to get on the phone with friends, previous leaders, colleagues or family members of our new team members. Sounds strange? Give it a try next time you’re hiring.

We do this not just to do some type of ‘background check,’ hidden under the more professionally accepted terminology of a reference call. We mostly just want to get to know the new team member better, hear about their strengths, how they function in a team, and – here’s one of my personal faves – how can we bring out the best in them? It’s never hard to get permission to talk to references if this is our approach to those conversations.

During one of these phone calls I got to talk to the dad of our potential new team member, and he asked me if I would allow him to ask me a question as well. What he said next stuck with me to this day. “What will be my daughter’s definition of success?”

I’m not sure if I was more thrown off by the fact that I was now being interviewed instead of the other way around, or the insecurity that was knocking on my door because I didn’t know how to answer that question. I sat up straight and tried to pay attention: there’s a valuable leadership lesson hidden in there somewhere.

This conversation showed me how this dad cares about his daughter enough to be involved in her life and work in such a personal way. I realised how important, but also how hard it is to really answer this question. Sure, we have job descriptions, task lists, team agreements. But can we actually tell our team members when they have been successful? 

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

—Winston S. Churchill 

What does success look like to you? We can list all the obvious answers, ranging from money to fame and everything in between. But do we actually know what that looks like in real life? Where do you want to be in a year from now, and what does that mean for the choices we’re making today, and the habits we’re creating tomorrow?

In our personal lives we’ve had the privilege to witness up close both great wealth as well as deep poverty. It’s obvious to see that true success isn’t measured in physical, concrete definitions as much as it is in personal and relational progress. True success isn’t found in your wallet, or even bringing closure to the biggest, most ambitious project you’ve ever worked on. I feel that our most successful achievements, the moments we can be most proud of are the ones that we look back and see how many lives we have touched, how much value we have added to other people’s progress and how much we’re learning in the process. 

Have you been successful lately? Give it a go. Just pick one responsibility you have at the moment, one project you’re working on, one role you have in life, grab your phone and take a minute to write this in your notes: what would be the outcome that you could truly be proud of? 

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