What a strange concept, HONEST SUCCESS. Rarely are these two concepts joined. Why? Because success is often an illusion, that an executive or manager has created in their own mind, based on their perceptions, values and beliefs. According to a recent survey of corporate executives, nearly 90% equated their success with 1) the money they personally made, 2) the money the company made (which they believed they were responsible for; losses were blamed on others!), or 3) the rise in the value of the company stock. The remaining 10% defined success by the “quality” of the products or services they provide, factors related to the “contentment” of the workforce (low turnover, cooperative union representatives, etc.) or personal satisfaction in what they do.
Actually any leader’s real success is based on other’s perceptions of who they are, what they do, how effective they are, their importance (or lack of importance) to the organization, and the money they make.
So how do we get HONEST SUCCESS?
Rather than asking yourself how successful you are, you must ask others. But this is not as easy as it would appear to be. Honest success means honest feedback. Who will you ask? How do you know it is honest feedback, vs. telling you what they know you want to hear?
When you get honest feedback will you need to understand it, accept it and believe it? What will you do with the information about your “success”? Success for leaders in the business world implies doing something positive and measurable that moves a company, workers, and yourself, forward. Honest success requires that a leader take the necessary risks to challenge the status quo. Making adequate profits, or being mediocre, resting in the middle of your industry’s pack, is not success. When you can be creative in pushing changes that others fear, but trust, you will be evaluated as successful. Your success is defined by proven examples of superior progress, as perceived by others. Usually it is accompanied by obvious sustained (greater than average) profits and innovations.
How do I get the HONEST vs. ILLUSIONARY SUCCESS?
In the recent past we experienced “creative” accounting in some corporations in order to provide an illusion of success for companies and executives. Many were acclaimed by the business world to be great leaders. But dishonesty will always become exposed at some point. Can these so called “leaders” ever regain their reputation? It will be difficult for them to ever be perceived of as “honestly” successful in the future.
Can you get honest information from a 360-degree feedback process? Not by 360 degree evaluation “canned” techniques. With innovation the process can provide honest information, however, innovation is not the norm for 360 degree feedback processes. A nationally prominent speaker, at the Society of Industrial / Organizational Psychologists’ National Conference, provided a vivid example of why the processes (like the 360 degree feedback) often fail to give us HONEST data about our SUCCESS as a leader. He simply noted that if Saddam Hussein was evaluated by a 360-degree process what would the result have been? What would happen to any one who did not evaluate him as a successful “angel”?
Getting honest perspectives from people who either fear the threat of being found out (intentional dishonesty), or who have been hired and positioned to see things exactly as you (unintentional dishonesty), can only present illusionary perspectives regarding your success. Therefore, they will not be valid indicators of HONEST SUCCESS. As an illustration of this, consider if we all could make a million dollar bonus by just holding the release of “poor” company earnings until the next quarter, how many would delay the report? Have we been honestly successful? What will happen to the perceptions of our success in the next quarter? Or were we successful just because we made the extra one million dollars for ourselves?
Getting a glimpse at what does NOT constitute honest success now forces us to ask the pressing question again, “how do I get honest information that will help me understand my success, and the success of my company?”
The PROCESS to get HONEST SUCCESS.
The PROCESS is essential to determining the true success you are experiencing for yourself and in your business. HONEST SUCCESS is no more than gathering the information from individuals on the bottom of your organizational chain and using that information to develop the questioning for each tier up in the corporation. Learning, learning, learning. Honest success is therefore a dedicated process of learning how successful you are by understanding the perceptions of others as they change and evolve from the farthest from you to the closest to you. Daily, and perhaps every minute, your actions (or non-actions) are evaluated by those around you. Honest Success is developing a fluid process of information gathering that avoids the pitfalls of selective listening and information gathering. Some people appear successful by luck but luck is never a factor for honest success. When will you be able to stop asking questions and re-evaluating your scorecard for honest success? When you are dead you can stop learning and get the final tally on your honest success. For what is said then is honest, and truly reveals you honest success.
Don’t deceive yourself. Get HONEST SUCCESS the HONEST WAY. Learn, daily, what others perceive (those who are not going to intentionally or unintentionally give you deceptive information about you), so you can achieve greater honest success.
The questions you must ask to determine your honest success.
- What do employees (and beneficiaries of what you have to offer) think of your success?
- What do they see as “really” important to you? Money? Status? Power? The company?
- Do they understand your vision? Do they trust you because of your track record?
- Do they see you as only good, or great, because you are not satisfied with mediocrity?
- Do they see you moving the company ahead in a positive direction?
- Do others believe you understand their concerns? Do they trust that you will address the concerns, or avoid them? A basic principle of business is: the more genuine you prove to be concerned with the welfare of your employees, and can show it with direct action, the more loyal and dedicated they become. The more they trust you the more willing they will be to give you honest feedback.
- Do your employees see you as a motivator?
- Can others measure the continual progress you have made in moving the company ahead? As noted in a recent best selling business book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, people follow leaders who prove to be creative and trustworthy, while always pushing the company to be better than just mediocre.
- Are the front line workers aligned with you?
You have honest success when others say you have it. It is not evaluated on one particular day. It is assessed continually, and based on what you do, not what you say.
Don’t be successful in your own mind; be honestly successful.
Now, do you really have the courage to find out if you have HONEST SUCCESS?