Whether you’re planning your summer vacation or the launch of a new product, defining success should be one of the very first items on your “to do” list. While the SMART goals strategy can be helpful in terms of identifying objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound, I invite you to go deeper. Beyond the metrics, plan for the humans involved in your project to experience the feeling of success.

Consider how success will connect the people in your organization to one another and your mission. What are the possible implications in terms of group dynamics? How do you want your people to feel as a result of the successful completion of your endeavor? How will this experience set them up moving forward? What do they need in terms of support, guidance, and expectation setting to prepare for success?

Use the guidelines below for moving beyond the “what” to truly design an experience that gives your team a feeling of success in addition to checking off the requisite SMART criteria.

Define Success

Let’s say you want to take a family vacation. In the most basic terms, success might be spending one week together away from home within a certain financial budget. But a truly rewarding trip requires more thoughtful planning. Take a few quiet minutes to think back through previous family experiences and recall what brought the most joy or excitement. What made you all feel like you were connected? Does healthy competition get everyone engaged or are they more likely to bond over awe-inspiring experiences? Do meaningful conversations happen on physical excursions like hikes or do the words really start flowing after a couple of hours of just hanging out at the beach? Use that intelligence as guideposts for creating a more intentional kind of success with your family.

This approach works equally well for professional teams. Using what you know about the workplace wins for the individuals in your group can set up excellent guideposts for engaging everyone in the road to success.  Knowing which team members thrive on a sense of belonging and which like competition or public praise can help you define success in a way that speaks to each of them.

Engineer the Environment

Every time you send out an email, run a meeting, or make an announcement, you’re contributing to the ecosystem. Whether you’re at work or out in the world, you have an immense amount of environmental control. You get to choose how to show up, which words to use, what points to highlight, and what behaviors to reward. Use that ability to engineer the environment and promote a feeling of success for those working on your projects. You may want to have weekly check in calls that highlight successes and provide a venue for brainstorming solutions to new issues. Your team might benefit from individual praise in a group setting. Many of us are motivated to go the extra mile when we know we’ll have that feeling of success in return for our efforts.

For your family vacation, pay attention to the little things that create memorable experiences. It might be a particular play list that creates the right vibe. Maybe leading the way with a sense of adventure that you model with your words and actions will result in the right environment for memory making. When you take responsibility for setting the tone, you’re letting everyone know how to successfully engage.

Regularly Assess “People” Progress

No matter how much we think we know about the people with whom we live and work, we won’t always get motivation and inspiration right on the first try. As humans, we’re continually growing and changing. So what worked for us yesterday may not work for us today. Our constantly evolving nature allows for constantly evolving strategies and interventions. If your tried and true methods aren’t working in terms of defining success for your group or creating an environment that sets them up to deliver their best, you’ll need to course-correct. Start with observation to see what seems to be resonating. Go ahead and ask a few open-ended questions to get feedback on what might work better or what they need more of to perform at their best. Then adjust as needed.

However you define success for your group, be sure to stay consistent. One of the most frustrating experiences for teams at home and at work is a changing goal line. If you do need to change the meaning of success, do so with transparency so that everyone stays with you on the journey.

Talk to you next week,

Amber D. Nelson


Cover of Amber Nelson's book, "Talk to Me"

Subscribe to The Lingo-ist

Subscribe to The Lingo-ist, Amber's monthly blog with free resources including insights and inspiration on language and leadership. A digital copy of Talk To Me: 11 Ways to Make Your Conversations Richer Deeper and More Meaningful is yours when you sign up.  

Please check your email to confirm your subscription to The Lingo-ist.