During my many years in business, both as a professional and an entrepreneur, I always wished I knew the secret to success. Although I was never able to pinpoint any single one, I have gathered some insights which I’m certain are key. In more recent years as a mentor and angel investor, I’ve been even more determined to pass this guidance to those now entering the workforce.
Thus, I was pleased to see many of my insights seconded in a new book, “The Promises of Giants,” by John Amaechi, OBE, a respected organizational psychologist and leader in the global business arena. For your contemplation, I am paraphrasing his list of insights here, with my own experience added:
- “Nice guys” don’t necessarily finish last. I’ve long heard the myth that peers who are pleasant, thoughtful, conscientious, ethical, fair, and honest are destined to get run over. Obviously, this does happen occasionally, but in my experience, those who consistently demonstrate an aggressive, yet positive and friendly approach, will win in the long run.
While new research confirms that people who manipulate others, and narcissists' charm, makes them much more likely to be chosen as leaders, when it comes to getting the job done, it also shows that they tend to achieve less and are considered poor team players.
- Success doesn’t require disrespect or cruelty. Success does require making difficult decisions, and the ability to deliver difficult conversations. It just means that successful leaders don’t have to aim to harm people or recklessly disregard the impact of decisions on individuals. Really successful leaders do have sensitivity, and show it to their team.
For example, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, elevated the positive values recently at the 2019 Dreamforce conference, stating: "Wouldn't it be great if everyone woke up and said, from now on I'm treating people with dignity and respect. So many problems would go away."
- Meeting your goals is the only definition of success. Success for you needs to be enduringly meaningful and purposeful to your life and context. The quickest way to fail is to tie your assessment of winning to someone else’s criteria or dream. In my experience, it must be challenging, even seem impossible, and have major value to others as well.
The first step is to find out what really motivates you. What do you want to achieve for yourself and your family? What do you value spiritually, emotionally, and materially? That's what will make you happy, and it’s no fun being successful if you are not happy.
- Success requires a clear, vivid, and explicit vision. While it’s important to pick a valid target, whatever it may be, you must promise to commit fully to that success. At the organizational level, this may be measured by profit and loss, but that most often is related to employee engagement, quality of experience, and other human factors.
- Winning means compromise and making tradeoffs. You need to understand that business is about satisfying your customer, as well as yourself. Having to pivot as you learn is the only way to win, and being a perfectionist is a quick way to lose. Winning in the long run is the definition of success, and is not always the same as winning right now.
- You don’t have to destroy others to achieve success. Great success is a win-win solution, rather than win-lose. Don’t let others pit you against everyone else, since there must be enough room is business for customers, vendors, and your team to win, as well as you. Even competitors can provide you will helpful insights and winning nuggets.
- Success hinges on minutiae, not pivotal moments. Enduring success is built upon equalizing attention to detail, focus, and effort across everything you do. We all know a respected leader who makes it all look easy, getting positive results and success in the face of mundane, vexing, and even obscure issues. Pivotal moments are for recollection.
Success in business requires that you vigilantly tend to everything that is within your control, including all the dusty stuff in the corners that you would rather not deal with. If you cannot commit to that, then you are not truly committed to success. At the same time, if you can achieve something meaningful for all those around you, they will bring long-term success your way.
*** First published on Inc.com on 11/26/2021 ***