The coaching couch: Tuning into success


It’s a common topic in coaching conversations!

So let me ask you – what does success at work look like for you?

It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing, in my opinion. What I consider to be success might be completely different to what you consider to be success.

However – in my coaching conversations, I notice some definite themes around how success is defined in our industry:

  • The next promotion
  • The next payrise
  • Hitting your revenue targets
  • Meeting the required scores on the client satisfaction survey
  • Getting your own account(s) to lead
  • Having a team to manage

On a personal level, I can relate to this; in my agency days, these were fairly typical markers of success and progress.

But here’s the thing. I often hear my clients talking about setting their sights on these things, because ‘that’s what success is’. But often, when we dig a bit deeper, the thought of attaining those things isn’t actually that exciting or inspiring, for whatever reason. Here’s a fairly typical conversation:

Client: “I’ll be successful when I get promoted to Director”

Me: “OK – and do you want to be a Director?”

Client: “No, not really”

Surely, success has to be linked to achieving something you actually want?

We do an exercise where we really focus on what success looks like for them. Often, the answers surprise them, because they can be quite different to what they’ve been striving for.

Let me be clear – I’m definitely not saying it’s wrong to be focused on achieving promotions, payrises and the like – that’s not the point of this article. And of course each role comes with certain performance criteria that have to be met – I’m not saying ignore those either.

My point is, check in with yourself from time to time and make sure that you’re aiming for things for reasons that feel right to you, and motivate you for the right reasons.

I personally believe that in order to truly feel successful you have to have certain needs met. To feel that what you’re doing has meaning. That you’re contributing something that you believe is important. That you enjoy what you do! That you’re growing and learning. And not that you’re just following a pre-determined linear path that doesn’t inspire or excite you.

I can certainly relate to this from my own experience. Right from my very first job as a Research Executive, I was focused on my next promotion. I worked hard and worked my way through the classic research career route until I was a Senior Director.

Did I achieve a lot? Yes I did! Was I 100% committed to doing a good job? Definitely. Did I feel successful? Not really. Yes, I felt that I’d progressed, that I was seeing the results of my efforts, that I was carving out a solid career path. But did my promotions bring me joy? Not particularly. Satisfaction, of course; validation, certainly – but not that thrill that you get when you achieve something that fundamentally feels important to you. It was ultimately a box-ticking exercise, because I was doing what I thought was expected of me and then moving onto the next logical and expected target.

It’s only when I really started to focus in on what my own definition of success was, that I got closer to bringing some of the things that I really wanted to fruition in my career.

So, I would encourage you to consider this question and complete this sentence:

“For me, success is…..”

Being tuned into what success means for you is a great place to be. It’s easier to stay motivated, to set goals that excite you, and to feel that you’re being true to yourself in what you do.

And if you do that, you will be more invested in what you’re doing, which usually means that you’re more productive and committed, and can make more of an impact – and voila, the ‘traditional’ success markers of recognition, promotion or payrise may well follow!