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In a session with a business mentor last week, he posed an interesting question: What is Success? It got us all thinking.

Success appears to be an increasingly unused term, and the celebration of it ever rarer. A by-product of the current macro-economic environment? It certainly shouldn’t be.  Success is no more difficult to attain in tougher climates, and the celebration of it is more important. So why the reluctance to celebrate? Even to aim for, and vocalise the drive for success?

The world has become accepting of mediocrity. “Aim for the Stars and at least you’ll reach the mountain peak”.  Why?  Why is attaining a small percentage of the journey suddenly acceptable? How is “Never mind, 1% of the journey is a good result a motivational statement?

The fittest may survive, but it is seen as their duty to help the less fit. Admirable, appropriate and the foundation of a modern world, Perhaps – but does that mean that success is to be ignored…and not even aimed for?

Images of success are now very passé and almost unacceptable in public. I recently showed a group of professionals a number of images and got their immediate reaction.

* A group of professionals in a bar opening a bottle of Champagne? Overpaid bankers.
* Two men ‘high-five’ing?  Cheesy
* One person leaping up, punching the air? Show-off.
* Two people punching knuckles? Crass

Yet these were all images of success?

Ask anyone if they want to be successful, most will answer “Yes”. Ask them what success is and they will think. Ask them what they are going to do tomorrow to attain that success and chances are they won’t have an answer. We want success but most don’t want to actually have to work at it.

So back to our question.  What is success?  The truth is, it doesn’t matter. It is different for all people. For some it’s a goal achieved. (For some its work avoided!) For most it is the attainment of a task or challenge concluded. For even more it has financial connotations. It’s what makes you smile when you get in your car at the end of the day, its what gives you a glow of satisfaction.  The issue is striving for success under whatever definition you choose, and acknowledging that success by celebrating it.

Success bred from above

We have two clients, two very similar clients. Similar structures, similar sizes, similar impressive growth histories. Both are led by a single CEO, supported by a well qualified board. But behind the scenes, the two are very different.

They both think they strive for unilateral success, but only one actually does. One seeks motivated people, the other seeks motivatING people. One promotes a need to earn; the other promotes a desire to earn. One uses the fear of failure to elicit performance; the other uses a wide suite of incentives to encourage performance. One employs measures to minimise interruptions to their office staff’s day, the other has measures to break-up their staff’s day. One has very high staff turnover, the other doesn’t. One spends over £1m on recruitment fees per year; the other spends less than £100,000.

Naturally success-craving people don’t need a success striving environment to shine, but they will work harder, stay longer and achieve greater success within one.

Find a driven, success-hungry person and place them in a success striving environment, the results will be explosive. Encourage their motivation, feed their desire for success, stretch their goals, but above all, give them guidance, give them support, give them the want to succeed, not the need to succeed.

If you can’t you must: If you must you can

Create a positive, success encouraging environment and your stars will shine, and even your average Joe’s will surprise. Set Goals with them. Reward in more ways that financial. Make them WANT to do well, and they will.  You don’t have to lay on Champagne, or weekend’s in Verbier by Private Jet – just acknowledge success, acknowledge higher performance….and never underestimate the power of ‘Thank you’ and ‘Well Done’.