Sunday, May 3, 2009

Two Key Elements to Achieving Success

Peter Drucker and Jack Welch, two experts in anyone's list of experts, have identified many key elements leading to personal success. The following two are so fundamental and critical, but often get pushed aside in favor of the "silver bullet of the month" element. They bear repeating.

Drucker said there is nothing as worthless as doing well something that doesn't need to be done at all.

Jack and Suzy Welch, in their weekly "The Welchway" column in Business Week, advised a questioner seeking career advice - a self described introvert - to find and release his inner extrovert if he wanted greater success in a large organization. Relationships count, and being known and having your value known is a personal responsibility - so adapt.

What do the Peter Drucker statement and the Jack and Suzy Welch advice have in common? They deal with two key elements required to achieve success

Key Element One - You've got to be doing work that others see as valuable and it's up to you to advertise it's value.

And the valuing of the work starts with the person doing it. If they don't see its value, you can be sure others won't either. It's the difference between being "just the receptionist" and being " the first person people meet when they come to my company." It's the difference between being a "retail clerk" and an "expert on men's fashions."

The burden of establishing the value of the work belongs to the person doing the work - they're the person most affected by the perception of the value of what they do. It's in their best interest to advertise and promote what they're doing as worthy and valuable to the enterprise. In many organizations, expecting that your work will speak for itself results in disappointment and frustration.. When there are so many others speaking out for their work you gotta stand up for what you do.

Ask yourself - Can you, in thirty seconds, explain what you do and its value to your organization? Not being able to do that effectively creates the perception of low value. The story of the three bricklayers illustrates that point. The first, when asked what he does, said " I lay brick." The second said "I'm helping build a school." The third said "I'm contributing to the building of a place where children in our community will learn - a special place." Same job, same outcome, same pay - three very different pictures of value added. Which of the three would you rather have working for and with you?

A story about how to keep value and accomplishment a secret:

A good friend was in a new position promoting a new enterprise that was going to open its doors in about a year. Her job was to promote and develop interest and commitment in this new enterprise in its target market. She started from scratch, with very little to work with other than her knowledge and presentation and relationship skills. The results of her efforts would not really be apparent until the enterprise opened. She did an excellent job of promotion - outside her organization. Inside her organization - not so much. She was working independent of any direct supervision. She was advised to develop a regularly published report - weekly preferred, at the least monthly - to communicate her activities and accomplishments. She thought that was too much like self promotion, and, besides, she didn't like doing that kind of work. So her bosses really had only anecdotal information on which to judge her effectiveness. Had she put together a routine of reporting and creating a vision of what she was doing, she would have been seen as the highly effective, valuable and successful person she was. But no one was in a position to see her success. She was lucky. She had a patient boss. Many aren't so lucky.

Key Element Two- Know who you are - your unique blend of skills, motivators and behaviors. Not just who you think you are, but how you are perceived by others. Then get to know your organization's expectations and culture. Then adapt to meet the needs of your organization - you must accept the responsibility of matching up with the requirements of the work and of the culture.

Sounds like a nobrainer. But many a can't - miss prospect, a big success in one situation, ends up not succeeding in what looks like a similar situation. The cause?

It starts with making the assumption that what worked at one place will work at another - that the motivators, values, behaviors and personal skills brought to the job match the requirements of the new enterprise. It's amazing how often they don't. It's also amazing how out of touch people can be with the reality of their personal skills, motivators and behaviors.

An example:

A manager whose experiences and values have resulted in her being very successful as a planner and preparer. She now works in a mid size company where speed to market is an absolute value. She insists that everything be planned and prepared so that chances of 100% success at implementation are as high as possible. No ready, fire aim for her. She's convinced of the rightness of her ways. Chances of success in that environment unless she adapts her values and behaviors - very low.

To put these two key success elements to work for you, take Drucker's observation to heart and make sure you do work valued by both you and your organization. And, of course, do it well. And take Jack and Suzy Welch's advice to heart and get to know the culture of the organization and how you fit in it and adapt to make sure your work is valued by others - self promotion is a valuable personal skill. It's an outcome of being convinced of the value of what you do, and, as the expert on what you do, you have the unique capability to share and create that value with others.

Andy Cox is President of Cox Consulting Group LLC. The focus of his work is on helping organizations and their people increase their success in the hiring, developing and enhancing the performance of leaders and emerging leaders. Cox Consulting Group LLC was started in 1995, and has worked with a wide range of organizations, managers and leaders - helping them define success, achieve success and make the ability to change a competitive advantage. He can be reached at or at

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