It seemed like Frank was always successful. Frank was on our regional team when I was a pharmaceutical sales rep way too many years ago. He always hit the targets that earned him really nice annual sales trips. He and his wife Donna got to visit Paris, Rome, and virtually every tropical paradise on earth because of his sales success. It seemed like he never missed a trip, even when only 5% of the sales reps qualified. Frank was like a beacon, a lighthouse of success. If you wanted that kind of success in your life and in your work, you just had to be like Frank.
I’m not sure how much of my success and the success of others on the team was directly connected to the fact that we had Frank with us. But I believe it was a lot. He was right there for us to study, question, and imitate.
A Picture of Success
Frank decided at some point in his career that he enjoyed sales more than management and he chose to stay in the role he excelled in. I for one was glad that he hadn’t moved on, because he helped me understand exactly what good looked like, what was possible, and what I could work toward achieving.
Every team needs to have a picture of success in their mind and some kind of representative sample of possibilities. There’s a growing body of research that tells us when we see or hear about the success of others it can influence us to want to learn and improve as well.
This is probably not news. Most of us who have cared about succeeding at something have looked for examples of people who have done just that. It lets us know that success is possible and often even gives us a bit of a road map for how we might achieve that ourselves.
Share Success Stories with Your Team
Sometimes, as leaders though, we don’t ensure that our team explores those stories, examples or possibilities. If you observe a lot of meetings between managers and their teams, you will often see a focus on what the team is doing wrong, where the errors are, and what the manager thinks should change. Of course, those discussions might need to be a part of meetings sometimes, but are we as leaders also giving time to examples of what’s possible? Are we talking about what our best might look like, or where others have given us examples of tremendous success? How can we ensure that success stories also get heard along with the mistake, failure, or problem stories?
Help Your Team Find What's Possible
Here are three ideas that we can consider to help our team not only focus on what’s holding us back, but also what is right there in front of us to pursue.
Use at least a portion of meetings, emails, or other communications to focus on what’s possible.
You can even do this with questions such as “what does our best look like?” Or by asking, “What’s possible if we excel at this?” Or even, “who do you know or have heard about who has done this exceptionally well?” There may even be someone on the team (your own version of Frank) who consistently achieves success. We can help these people share their stories. We can ask them to talk about how they think, prepare, and work. Vision by the manager about what the future could hold for the team is important. Stories of actual success can contribute to helping others connect with that vision. Great leaders provide both.
Seek out examples of success that your team can study or learn about.
It’s easy these days to scour the internet, social media, books, or other resources that help your team spend more thought time on what’s possible, and even proven to be attainable. It’s really difficult for an employee in any role to focus on all the barriers to success when there are so many competing examples of overcoming those same barriers. Of course, they can insist that their geography, situation, product, job, etc. is special. They can say it’s more difficult or challenging than anyone else’s, but we can at least make their ability to do that harder. We get to decide, to some degree, to help them focus on the possibilities even if their pattern of behavior is to focus on the challenges. That can change their thinking and even change their behavioral patterns over time.
Build habits around discussing successes.
Look for consistent ways, like an email once a week, a way to start each meeting, or how you spend time in coaching conversations to explore successful examples and possibilities. It’s critical that we don’t read a blog post like this and say to ourselves, “Maybe I need to do more of that” without also saying to ourselves, “and here’s my plan for making that happen, including when and how I will begin.” Our habits as leaders determine far more of our success than our intentions. So we want to build consistent, repeatable ways to execute on insights we have, ideas we consider, and choices about what we do next.
We have an incredible amount of influence as leaders on how our team thinks and what they focus on. And that extends to what changes they believe are possible in their lives. Our job is to fully use that influence. Not to let it get swallowed up in mediocre meetings or repetitive, but not impactful, conversations. We get to reinvent our discussions based on what works, what helps, what causes positive change, and what creates a better future. That’s our own set of possibilities. And, we get to approach our leadership role like Frank approached his sales role. We too get to be more like Frank.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below.