Learning to Measure Success

Sara Knapp

Post by Sara Knapp, Executive Coach

Can you imagine playing a competitive team sport – maybe for big money – without being clear on the rules of the game or how the score is kept?  Seems unlikely, right?  Yet many of us go to work every day, either not knowing what the playbook says – or, even worse – assuming we know, without ever bothering to check that we understand the object of the game. 

If you want a competitive advantage at work, you must know how you’re being evaluated. Make sure you’re really clear on what success looks like to those who are scoring you. 

How? Simply ask. Yes, I know it’s an uncomfortable topic. But your discomfort will soon become outright pain and humiliation if you find you’ve been rolling happily along, focusing on the wrong things and oblivious to the fact that you’ve been scoring points for the other team. Make sure you get specifics. For example, if your boss says, “You need to be a good player,” then ask: “What does that look like?”: “What behaviors will I be exhibiting?”; “What actions do I need to be taking?”; “What results will I be aiming for and getting?”; “How will you know when I’m doing it? 

Once you’re clear, play by the rules. Document your successes and make sure your boss recognizes them, too. This doesn’t have to be done explicitly; rather, you should be sure to weave in stories that highlight your successes when you’re sharing updates or in regular meetings.  

Don’t assume your boss already knows. It’s your job to make sure those who are keeping score notice just how many points you’re netting; both for the team and yourself.