Posts Tagged ‘success’

Where Does Success Come From?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

SuccessWhat makes some people successful, and others not so? I’m mostly talking about in the business world, although it could be in any activity. What makes some people perform so much better than others? This is a question I’ve spent a lot of time – years, in fact – thinking about, and studying. I get excited just thinking about it, I’m so passionate about human performance. Okay, I may not be “normal,” but that’s just who I am.

So, what makes some people perform better than others?

Is it talent? Not entirely, if you follow the latest research (most of which is written about in the excellent book, Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin). Sure, it’s important, but as I talked about in a previous post (The Myth About Natural Talent) it’s not everything. In fact, it may be much less of the performance equation than many people think.

Is it skills and knowledge? Well, one certainly needs skills and knowledge to do a job well, but is that the key? Have you ever met anyone who is extremely skilled and knowledgeable, but who doesn’t perform very well? Have you ever seen a person with an impressive list of accreditations and accomplishments fail at a new job?

Is it focus? You know, being focused on the right things at the right time? That’s important, isn’t it?

Is it motivation? Sure. But not without the skills and knowledge to do the job. And the focus. Motivated mayhem does not lead to great performance.

Is it fit – you know, fitting into the culture of the company or team? That’s part of it. But again, without the skills and knowledge, and without being aimed in the right direction, fit isn’t everything.

Is it personality? Hey, that’s important. I’m sure you’ve seen very talented, very skilled, very knowledgeable, very motivated people who fit the culture of the company or team who failed. Why? Because their personality sucked. Okay, maybe not that bad, but let’s just say their personality didn’t fit with their co-workers or teammates.

Is it the person’s manager (or sports coach)? Yes, the manager plays a big role in how well someone performs, and that is going to impact how much success they have – I talked about this in a previous post, too (How Important Is Management?). In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen poor performers who were transformed into superstars by a different manager, and vice versa. But is it just a person’s manager?

Is it communication? Without good communication, no one is going to perform very well, right?

Is it the person’s own mission being in alignment with the company’s mission? Very important. But is it the most important factor?

My point here is that performance is not a simple thing. It’s not just one thing. Of course, everyone knows that, right? Then why do so many people look for the silver bullet, that one simple thing that is going to transform themselves or others into superstar performers?

I’m sure I’ve missed many factors here that lead to great performance, and to success. This is one of those posts that provides more questions than it does answers, so I’m waiting to hear your thoughts…

Success Lessons From The World Of NASCAR

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

nascar.600A recent edition of USA Today (November 6, 2009) ran an article about the consistent success of Hendrick Motorsports’ NASCAR teams. Some would say domination is a better word than consistent success, given that they are closing in on their fourth consecutive NASCAR championship (perhaps taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd). The article is titled, “Happy in the Workplace – Hendricks Motorsports’ people skills key success,” and it provides some lessons that any organization, whether in sport or the business world, can learn from.

General Manager, Marshall Carlson says there are four keys to their success: “Talent, unity, speed, and focus, and all four are about people, not technology or widgets.” Where some teams look to cut costs on hotels and food for their traveling teams (consider that these teams are on the road for at least 36 weekends per year), Hendrick Motorsport “views booking quality hotels and catering healthy meals as essential as top-notch equipment.” In other words, looking after their people.

While most race team managers come from within the sport, Carlson came from Hendrick’s auto dealership empire. He views the running of the race teams no different from running of a car dealership. “They’re a lot less different than you’d think, because the culture is very much aligned.”

“A lot of car dealers put the customer first. At Hendrick Automotive Group, the employee is No. 1 and they’ll take care of the customers because happy customers keep the manufacturers happy. It’s same with the team. We feel if we have smart and talented people happy to be there, we’ll run well. If we run well, the sponsors will be happy. Even in a sport where the technology is very important, the difference is the human capital.”

“Anything that touches people takes precedent, whether it’s food, travel, uniforms, working conditions or health insurance,” he said. “That’s contrary to how some organizations work.”

Hmmm… Happy employees. Ensuring employees are happy is the number one priority, assuming that if they are, they will make sure the customer is happy.

How many companies claim that people are their number one resource, and yet don’t back that up with their actions. In fact, having facilitated strategic planning sessions for companies, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard senior management make that claim, and yet heard from employees that it’s not true. Leaders claiming that employees are most important, and yet acting as though they are really a distant second – or third, fourth, or worse – to anything that leads to short-term financial results seems to be the norm and not the exception.

Let’s go back to what Carlson said were the four keys to their success:

1.     Talent – A happy employee who does not have the skills and knowledge to do the job will not lead to consistent success. What he doesn’t say is that, for the most part, skills and knowledge can be acquired.

2.     Unity – This is all about teamwork, all about people working together as a unit.

3.     Speed – When one hears a person in motorsport talk about speed, you can’t help but think he’s talking about the car. But in this case, Carlson is talking about people. Having spent years around high-performing race teams (and some low-performing ones), I know that he’s talking about how having the right systems and processes in place, good people will perform quickly and efficiently.

4.     Focus – Happy, talented employees, working together within great systems will not perform well if they’re headed in the wrong direction. Well, duh. Focus is critical.

But here’s the point: Talented employees, working together as a team with great systems, and focused in the right direction will not perform consistently well if they’re unhappy. I can think of one specific race team that I was involved with where this was the case. They had incredibly talented people. They worked well together, as a team. They had fantastic, well-designed systems and processes in place. And they were very focused on what was important and what needed to be done. But it was not a “happy workplace.” And they under-performed.

Lesson learned.

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