Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Success on what terms?

What does success look like? That was the question that kicked of the team meeting this morning. It provoked a couple of hours of healthy discussion. Perhaps you’ll forgive me for not divulging the specifics if I give you some of my subsequent musings.

You could be said to have had success if you achieve your aims while working in a specific area. Is it perhaps a greater success if, after your departure, that area continues to thrives? Let me find a ‘for example’. Imagine an entrepreneur starts a business and is soon employing others and turning a profit. Unlike current conditions, the market is stable and the future looks good. Then they get a new idea. Needing time to pursue this new interest they hand the first business over to their staff team and embark on the new venture. Within six months they have a thriving business developing while their previous project is losing its market share, laying off staff and giving the best impression of being yesterday’s news.

The entrepreneur could rightly be lauded as a success by one measure: they start things well. However, they are also a failure because their first company didn’t go the distance after their departure. They failed to invest in others, giving them the skills and insight to continue what others had started. It is easy, at least comparatively so, to be an individual success; much harder to shape successful successors. However, leaving a living legacy: that is the true test of greatness. And it’s all too rare in our world of short-term self-interest.

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