Work and Life Success

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.

In a lot of my executive coaching we discuss performance, effectiveness and success. Some executives perceive they are wildly successful using only a narrow way of defining their life–with work being the most important factor despite having poor health, broken family relationships and a sense of not really knowing if they are making a real contribution to anything meaningful.

Merriam-Webster defiines “success” as one that succeeds, the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence or outcome/result.

How successful are you? How do you define success in your own life?

Personal Success Scorecard

In working with so many senior executives that might be described as “successful” in their chosen careers, it became pretty obvious that they were a success but in a very narrow way. It would appear to be much more valuable to have a “scorecard” that could describe domains outside of work and career as a way to define, measure and strive for personal definitions of success. I conceptualize “success” as having at least four overlapping pillars or domains that include:

1. Achievement: What have I done that I am most proud of?

2. Relationships: What Impact have I had with those who mean the most to me? What are my core values and reasons for living?

3. Well-Being: What brings me the most pleasure and contentment?

4. Legacy: What are my core values and reasons for living?

Each of these have specific definitions and metrics that help us to define just how “successful” we might be from our own perspective and as experienced or seen by others.

In fact, we can create a set of objectives and “metrics” for each of these domains that give you an idea of how to maximize your overall success both personally and in the eyes of others you interact with.

I’ve discovered that introducing this personal success scorcard early in my executive coaching intervention provides an interesting model for my clients to think about even if our primary contract is around cultivating their “leadership effectiveness” directly leading to enhanced individual, team and organizational effectiveness. This scorecard also allows me to openly discuss “balance” and what it means to be at least actively cognizant and aware of how we are spending our time and energy.

If a client is completely unbalanced (e.g., a Type A workaholic or what is now being labeled “engaged workaholics” with total focus essentially on the career domain) but isn’t dissatisfied, are they unsuccessful? Perhaps the answer lies in what is valued by the client but I’ve yet to see senior level executives that can sustain a high degree of effectiveness and performance in their chosen occupational field without some time and attention in the other three success domains.

And just how happy should we be? Does it really matter? In fact, recent research suggests that if career success is an important goal, that being moderate or moderately high in self-reported happiness appears to be the most desirable level. However, if we are looking at relationships, being as happy as possible is indeed the goal. Even with a large genetic “set point” we now know that approximately 10% of our happiness level is situationally determined (e.g., we get a speeding ticket or we receive wonderful unexpected feedback from someone we value) and 40% is based on the behaviors, thoughts and feelings we can actively control each day.

Perhaps it isn’t possible to be totally balanced in each of these success scorecard domains but it’s something we should at least be actively reflective and conscious about them each day. At least with the few executives I’ve worked with that have made the most progress in their careers, they have also attempted to focus some time and attention to one of the other domains outside of achievement. I don’t have any research data to support this hypothesis but it seems that attention to the three domains other than work/career might actually have an unintended side effect of facilitating success in that one as well.

Maybe the lesson for leaders can be summed up by Sloan Wilson who said, “Success in almost any field depends more on energy and drive than it does on intelligence. This explains why we have so many stupid leaders.”…Be well…..