Who wants to win? Who’s the best? Who wants to be No 1? It’s easy to get sucked into traditional and still dominant definitions of success. But it’s a trap that’s worth avoiding, as 2020 has shown more than ever. Dominant macho narratives of ‘being the best’ and ‘beating the opposition’ drive narrow, short-term thinking, leave employees disengaged through a lack of meaning about why their work really matters, and hold back the vital engine of business performance: constant learning, adaptability and innovation – qualities that are more critical than ever to businesses.
Last year forced many of us to re-evaluate what success really means in an unpredictable, uncertain world and 2021 is the year to continue to build on that. The 3C’s of ‘The Long Win’ approach – Clarity, Constant Learning and Connection – are a crucial guide to support business leaders to define success on your own terms.
Firstly, gaining Clarity of what matters requires us to broaden our criteria for success. We can’t base success purely on short-term outcomes beyond our control or results that we can’t guarantee. They may form a part of the metrics we use, but they need to be framed within a longer-term perspective of the difference you want to make, the purpose that is driving your business, and the change that you want to see. If, for some reason, those short-term results don’t come, you’ll still stay connected to that deeper sense of purpose which brings resilience, adaptability and the flexibility that is required to work out how to stay on track or get back on track. A study into motivation at work looked at thousands of diary entries describing the highs and lows of working life. The number one motivator and most powerful source of energising us at work wasn’t about hitting targets, getting bonuses or receiving incentives: it was making progress in work that matters. Meaning rather than metrics are what motivates us and those around us at a deeper level.
Secondly, a Constant learning mindset is the fuel of performance, innovation and resilience. It provides ongoing momentum when things don’t always go to plan, it enables us to grow and develop in those times when the results aren’t what we had planned and hoped for, and provides us with the means to keep moving forward. What does this look like in practice? Seeing every interaction, every conversation and every meeting as a chance to learn, to grow your perspective, to learn from someone else, to see things differently. It means that every problem, every opportunity and every challenge offer a way to get valuable feedback, to review and reflect on how you have done things to date, and find a way to experiment with how you might improve in the future. Recognise learning in itself and you are investing in future performance. Olympic athletes don’t focus on being world-class at winning, they focus on being world-class at improving, because that is what optimises their chances of winning when the time comes.
Thirdly, prioritising human Connections in everything that you do underpins ‘Long Win’ success. None of us can succeed alone. Entrepreneurs and business leaders know better than most how important is it to build networks. Include coaches and mentors in your development, and reach out proactively to explore who else could add value to your business. How many of us really prioritise relationships in everything we do – how many of us plan our weeks around developing these connections and increasing our influence? Just because it’s hard to schedule influencing and connecting in an electronic calendar and measure its worth in a spreadsheet, should not mean we leave it to chance.
When assessing how a working day, week or month has gone – don’t look to your to-do list first, to the tasks that are dominating your calendar or to the spreadsheet of results. Develop more ‘meaningful metrics’ about the areas that matter on a deeper level, less easy to quantify, but so much greater in their potential impact. Think first about Clarifying what’s the bigger difference and change you are trying to see, specify the areas you are wanting to Constantly learn and improve in, and prioritise investing in the Connections critical to you making the difference that drives your business. Take time at the beginning of 2021 to work out the 3Cs of The Long Win and what they mean to you, in order to redefine and optimise your future success.