Love this post from Creating Passionate Users called, Success Should Not Mean Management.
We might all say that career success should be measured by how fulfilled you are on the job, but in practice, most people and companies still measure success by how high you climbed the corporate ladder. Clawed yourself near the top of the org chart? You ARE successful. But if you’re not on a leadership track, playing the "my number of direct reports is bigger than yours" game, you’re probably not. We all know this is lunacy, especially in the tech world, so why do so many companies still have only a single path for promotions? You either move into management or your career (pay, benefits, perks, control, etc.) stands still.
Isn’t it about time we quit measuring professional success in one dimension, vertically, and start considering how much your actual work matches your desired work?
Great question! How we define success is so important to the life we create and how we feel about that life. Kathy highlights the importance of your personal definition of success being a comparison between the work you want to do and to what degree you are doing that kind of work. I love this perspective. In addition, I agree with Kathy that companies ought to do a better job creating many kinds of career paths, not just the path to management.
In addition, once we are doing the type of work we desire, we need to define what success looks like for that work. I wrote a whole chapter about our definition of success in High Impact Middle Management and it continues to be an important topic which I include in most of the training I produce. Here’s a snippet from that chapter (this relates to management, but you can adapt this for any job):
How do high impact middle managers define success? Each middle manager is going to hold beliefs specific to his or her function and current goals, as those elements are unique. Many aspects of middle management, however, are similar across industries. When observing and talking with high impact middle managers, it becomes apparent that they share similar beliefs about what success means and how it can best be achieved. What´s more, these same beliefs are often held by successful senior executives. That is important to note because a senior manager´s expectations of his or her middle managers will tend reflect their own beliefs about how success is achieved. An additional benefit of H.I.M.M. thinking is that it will serve middle managers well throughout their career progression. High impact middle managers subscribe to the following beliefs.
- Middle managers are expected to be accountable and take ownership-H.I.M.M. is built on the philosophy that to in order to achieve results, middle managers need to take ownership for whatever needs to be done. This belief drives proactivity and helps to stave off procrastination.
- Middle managers are expected to make a positive contribution to the business-A middle manager´s job is to think creatively and proactively, and take initiative to improve his and his team´s performance. This belief reinforces the concept that it is NOT a middle manager´s job to maintain or oversee what would otherwise happen on its own.
- Middle managers should be outstanding role models because they influence the culture and tone of the business-It is not OK for middle managers to be unprofessional or model undesirable behaviors. You will enjoy more success as a manager if you take your role as a professional seriously and recognize that your team members and peers are watching and emulate you when they decide how they should respond to situations.
- Middle managers need to get results-Middle managers who believe that it is their job to execute work and deliver results are more likely to choose results-oriented responses and actions. They are also more apt to value productivity measurements and process improvements as tools to monitor, manage, and enhance results.
- Management is a social as well as a business function-With every meeting you attend and every conversation you take part in, there is an opportunity to either add to or detract from the quality of the relationship. Middle managers need the support and cooperation of those they work with. Operating in isolation will not yield success. Recognizing that fact will help you choose responses that preserve and build relationships rather than those that destroy communication.
- Flexible and nimble teams are more successful-Middle managers must have their finger on the pulse of the company and know when changes in approach make sense and would be of benefit. A manager that holds this belief is more open to exploring options and creative solutions and is less likely to become comfortable with the status quo.
- Being a middle manager is a key role-Middle managers should want to spend most of their time managing and facilitating the work of others. Middle managers who do not believe their job is interesting and desirable will not likely serve themselves, or their organization, well.
- Success means delivering results and managing people for optimal productivity and satisfaction-In order to be truly effective as a high impact middle manager you must reframe your definition of success. Success should be defined more by accomplishment and less by promotions, status, or other extrinsically motivating factors such as cash bonuses.
- Good managers are responsive to other´s ideas and concerns-Being defensive or combative does not reflect favorably on any manager. Being open and flexible makes one seem more intelligent and talented. If you have the constant need to prove that you are right you will undermine relationships with your superiors and your subordinates.
This list of H.I.M.M. beliefs forms a powerful definition of success! However, you will naturally adopt beliefs specific to challenges you are facing. For example, if over the next year the focus needs to be on product development, you would adopt beliefs and create a vision about how to best manage product development and what outstanding product development looks like.