What is a Successful Future?

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One of my favourite programmes to watch in the 80’s and 90’s was the comedy Only Fools and Horses. The main character Del Boy had a phrase he’d often say to his brother:

“Don’t worry Rodney, this time next year we’ll be millionaires!”

His character was the eternal optimist, and as fictional stories can, eventually after decades of dealing they finally became millionaires.

Del Boy’s phrase came to mind when talking about a company’s future recently. I had the privilege of working with a great ‘small’ business on planning their strategy. Though small in number they deliver a wider range of products and services to the world and collectively they had a real positive, ‘let’s do it’ attitude.

When we turned to defining success for next year what was surprising was within just 10 people there were ten different descriptions of success. Each person was asked to think about how the business will be judged to have had a successful next year and each person had a different perspective.

Some we’re functional, stating targets or work streams to develop. Some we’re more emotive and describing the culture and connections between colleagues. Others were quite narrow and focused on their part of the business only. But they were all different.

The difference is not an issue for this business today, but it will be as next year gets busy, as opportunities and challenges arise and pressure builds. Expectations from the owner will start to divert from the team, groups will form who are satisfied or dissatisfied with progress. Just as when a group of people start a journey, they may be standing next to one another at the start but if they have different modes of transport, even different destinations in mind, they will quickly spread out from each other and lose contact.

The important piece of information for the business I was working with is that now they know they have different expectations of future success. We could use that knowledge to check what is meant by their words, to draw the team together to listen and identify common themes and clarify where some (for example, the owner) may have a greater influence on the company’s definition of success for next year than others. The conversation created an opportunity for a common understanding to form. Everyone can now measure success and also see their contribution towards it. That for me is when facilitation becomes impactful, and we help a great business take their knowledge and turn it into practical, manageable actions to success.

So, as we turn to a new year, what is your company’s expectations for success? Have you checked with your team that you all agree? How do people think ahead and define achievement? If you start the conversation now you can ensure next year you journey alongside your team and do not seek to climb a mountain to success all on your own!