How do you measure success?
Here is the third element in my success formula and I have termed it measure. I am going to encourage you to take great care when choosing what to measure and how you are measuring it on the road to your success.
This article is the fourth part in my success formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.
So, how do you measure your success?
Over the years, I have set a great many performance measures myself and I have been subject to many performance measures set for me by other people. Some have worked well but most, and I am almost embarrassed to report this, have failed miserably.
What is going on here? Am I some sort of uncontrollable maverick who plays by his own rules whilst giving no respect to authority? Probably the wrong hypothetical question to ask because that’s often what I am, and it might well explain why I now run my own business.
A better question might be, “Why did so few of the measures work as intended?”
Suppose you choose a success measure and inform everyone concerned that they are now working towards that measure. Whenever a measure is chosen it instantly becomes a focus point and most people begin to work toward achieving that measure. Great you say, because that is you wanted and expected to happen.
Suppose you are a business owner who wishes to minimise accidents within your organisation. You clearly place a limit on the acceptable number of accidents and you even invest in setting up a fancy new reporting and dashboarding system. If the accidents limit is breached, then the staff will all be penalised by a lowered year-end bonus. Great plan – save for the fact that the staff will now be less likely to mention accidents and far more likely to cover them up. The staff are working by the numbers and trying to achieve the good measures and protect their bonus. You believe your business is a very safe ship but if someone were to have an accident, or worse, which could not be hidden then the HSE inspector would probably disagree.
A more enlightened business would not punish accidents but rather seek to drastically reduce the chances of an accident. They might set a target for “near miss” or “potential for harm” reports. They might put a simple system in place which allows for both reporting and recommendations for improvement. They could build such a target into the bonus scheme. People would look to place reports whenever possible. Sure, you might get some frivolous or pointless ones, but you will also get some golden ones which could literally mean the difference between life and death for your staff and your business.
My point is, you must take great care to measure performance effectively. This applies equally to personal measures and the measures you set for others.
To negate something, our brains must think about the something then apply the negation to it. For example, if I set myself a target of zero biscuits my intention would be to eat no biscuits however I find myself immediately thinking about biscuits to tell myself not to eat them. Inevitably, I end up eating biscuits because I am thinking about them.
We humans tend to focus and even fixate on the measurement target whether it put in a positive context or a negative context. The classic illustration of this is to challenge someone not to think of a bright blue floating tree. Go ahead and try it yourself.
A better trick is to set myself a target of only eating healthy things. This forces me to think about healthy things and, whenever the subject of biscuits comes up, I can more easily ignore the biscuits and eat an apple instead.
Sometimes you might set too vague a measure. Intangibles like happiness, fortune, wealth, beauty, etc… are wonderful aims but how will you know when they are achieved? You need to be very specific about what you mean by beauty or wealth. What will have to happen for you to feel beautiful? What does wealth really mean to you? These are slippery definitions at best. For example, you could spend vast amounts of resource on plastic surgery and gym memberships only to find the external beauty you create is not the inner beauty you are after. For another example, you could spend your life endlessly chasing money in the belief that lots of money will make you wealthy when your true definition of wealth is having a happy family who love you and each other deeply.
So, what is your true measure of success? Is it a positive or negative measure? Perhaps you will have attained something or accumulated a desired amount of something? Is it wholly tangible or wholly intangible? Is it a mixture of both?
Take your time and choose your measure(s) wisely and you will hugely increase your prospects for gaining the success you seek.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. Keep an eye out for the rest of the series. Why not click on the “follow” button and subscribe to the blog to get a reminder?
Why not check out the other series posts?
Part 1 The Success Formula
Part 2 And Your Reason Is?
Part 3 What Are You Aiming At?