It’s very common now a days to hear the phrase, “What does success look like?”, uttered in a meeting. It’s said when creating goals, objectives, metrics, actions for the team, department, company or individual. What I want to talk about today is the reality of what success could look like for individuals and open a dialogue for giving people the freedom to better express what success is to them. It’s very much common place now a days for managers and leaders to want the best from their staff, want them operating at an ever increasing standard (sometimes to a point where the standard begins to become un-sustainable, but that’s a topic for another time) and that’s all well and good. I know that with the teams I’ve worked with I always put a focus on how I can help them improve in one way or another. The dialogue I’d like to start see being more common place in the workplace, when it comes to 1–2–1 discussions between manager and employee is what does success look like to them, as a human being.
This is a question that I personally haven’t ever been asked in a professional environment and I can’t say I know of anyone that has (if you have then please do let me know). Because people’s drivers in life vary widely. For some, success in life is climbing that corporate ladder, for some it’s having a large bank balance, for others it’s having as much of an impact on people’s lives as possible, for some it’s environmental factors that drive them and wanting to make the world a better place but for some, and this is the group that I want to talk about today, success to them is their family.
I’ve coached and managed a few people who were hard workers, they always gave their all. They were reliable, good at what they did, and got the job done. But when I would have my fortnightly 1–2–1 with them to give them the opportunity to discuss matters that are important to them and how I as a manager or a coach can help them achieve their goals, or even to talk about setting goals, they would have very little to input. From a snapshot view, without knowing these individuals, you’d assume that they have no ambition or drive or some could even say they’re lazy. But that couldn’t be further from the reality of things. The reality of things was that, for these individuals, success to them was time well spent with their family and providing them the kind of life that they deserve. So they weren’t interested in pushing for the next promotion, they weren’t concerned with being a visionary or leader or trying to ‘change the world’ like a lot of ambitious individuals like to spout these days. They were content with where they were, they were good at what they do and they were comfortable with their current financial situation.
Leaders and speakers always talk about how you should be creating more leaders, and supporting people to reach new levels, but what everyone fails to talk about is the fact that we need these people. We need the people who are content with their current situation and their focus is their family (or some other external driver), because if you have a team of nothing but visionaries then you’re not going to have anyone left to actually do the work, or as my friend so eloquently put it; “you just get pulled apart by horses”. You need people that will just come to work and get on with things. Not constantly looking around at what they can change, what they can improve, how they can ‘change the world’. Because all that time spent looking, is time not spent actually delivering. And what I’d like to see happen more, and the entire point of this article, is removing the stigma of someone saying in a 1–2–1, “If I’m honest, my family is the most important thing to me and this is just a job that pays the bills” because there’s nothing wrong with that.
we need these people
I would have much preferred the people I coached and managed that were in that boat were just straight with me. Instead of me spending a lot of time and energy trying to help them achieve something they really weren’t interested in achieving, because it allows you to focus the time you do have with them to talk about the things that are important to them. Maybe they’ve been contemplating whether working remotely every so often to allow them the flexibility of being around at home is something they’ve wanted to talk about but it’s not currently a company policy. Do you not think that if you work with them to find a solution that helps them solve that problem, it will ultimately result in more loyalty, morale, engagement and productivity? It would certainly yield better results than if you spend all your time pushing them to learn new technologies or take the lead on a project of which they have no interest in leading. There is a mantra in coaching which is: “You can’t coach someone that doesn’t want to be coached”. But if you focus on the things that actually matter to them then you’ll find they’ll be far more willing to be engaged in the conversation.
I’m personally not a family man, I don’t have kids and I’m not married so I’m not someone that falls into the category that I’ve been talking about today. But from being stuck in the middle between a director above me driving me to get more out of certain individuals, and the individual who quite clearly fit into the category I’ve talked about today and had no interest in progressing, I could definitely feel for those individuals as it was very apparent that they didn’t feel like they could be honest about what success truly looks like to them.
So the next time you’re having a 1–2–1 with someone who you feel, “just doesn’t care” or even “is lazy”, think to yourself, what does success truly look like to them and encourage them to be honest with you so you can work together to achieve the best for both them and the company.
I am available to give talks in England on how to build a culture and environment that breeds productivity and fulfillment through effective leadership. Connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s talk some more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/martyn-puddephatt-14b08757/