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Five Actions for Success

(updated 2021)

Success is generically defined as, "The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like." The "or the like" part suggests an elusiveness and reluctance to confine - as success, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In practice, there are many ways to define success, but I also think there are a few standard signals we can all agree are indicators of success.

Have a Positive Attitude
I once worked in a retail environment where, "The Customer is Always Right," took precedence over employees. Damages, theft, and returns reduced management bonuses; however, management was typically disallowed from refusing returns, stolen or not. At this particular site, the manager chose to hold customers accountable for her possible bonus reduction. Even good citizens became suspects.

During a return, the manager would approach the cash register, approve the transaction, with a cocked head and smirk; she would thank the customer and immediately walk away, sometimes slamming the office door as her exit. Eventually, customers ceased to patronize the store, and the site was eventually closed.

The negative energy of one individual’s interpretation of the solution can be the driver of negative results. Likewise, the positive actions of one optimistic person can drive positive results.

”Did you know that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being?”

- The Hidden Power of Smiling

Communicate to Understanding
Someone once told me that, "communication is the root of all evil." I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment; but, I do think that communication methodology/delivery can create misunderstandings. Language is one of "those things" where people may hear or perceive your message differently than what you intended.

According to human communication theorists,words account for 7% of understanding, tone accounts for 38% of understanding, and 55% of understanding is body language. So, we pick up several cues at once before making an assessment of the speaker’s message. On the flip side, your message must get through the receiver’s personal filters, and their interpretation, before they actually "hear" what you said.

The best way to ensure your message is not misunderstood, is to simply remain willing to communicate, until an understanding is reached. Don’t assume your message was clearly received, be prepared to re-tool the communication, and be willing to apologize for the misunderstanding – even if it is mother nature’s fault – if you take ownership, you get to be the hero.

Value Differences
To get anything accomplished, it takes two people, at minimum. Remember this and it becomes easier to "bear with," "tolerate," or "permit," others to diverge from your norm to get a job done. Of course, this does not mean let go of your integrity, or accept sub-par results. It simply means that not everyone is you, and you may have to allow people to approach a problem in a manner that differs from your approach.

Value the differences of your team, find the benefit of their perspective, and amplify the strengths of their perspective while minimizing subjective weaknesses.

Embracing the spirit of creativity does not guarantee a win. In fact, it could open a door to failure. But as the saying goes, “You never know unless you try.”

- Embrace Creative Failure to Realize Your Best

Focus on the Goal
There’s nothing wrong with being people oriented or people centric. But, to achieve maximum effectiveness, it is crucial to focus on the common goal and to look beyond personality differences, methodology differences, and differences in learning or perception.

Maintaining focus on goal achievement helps team members to make the goal their priority in lieu of a preoccupation with personal dislikes. Continued refocus on the goal not only helps the team to be efficient; but, it also provides an opportunity for team members to appreciate one another’s contribution.

Be Accountable
Have you ever been a part of a project team and one, or several members, failed to make an acceptable contribution? Those team members may get to share the grade; but, they don’t get to share the long-term respect. Those individuals eventually gain notoriety as poor performers. Don’t be like them, always do your part, at minimum. And if you're ambitious, go the extra mile and do it before you’re asked, then ask if there is more you can do to help the team meet its goals and objectives.

Being a valuable team player should pay off in the end through position, honors, wealth, or some other form of recognizable success.

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