Thursday, September 15, 2016

What Caused Your Success?

Of course I know why I am successful, I am talented :-)


In the past few months I have been asked and/or told that I was not clear on what was the cause of my success(es), that is assuming I have actually had any.

Without being clear on what is the source of success, it is very difficult to duplicate it.

I have a hypothesis that most change initiatives and transformations fail for a very similar reason. We try to duplicate a success and it does not happen. We use the same methods, techniques, practices and patterns. We teach the same values and principles. Despite that, the results are less than impressive.

Of course I know why things didn't go well, it's those other people :-(


We have many reasons for these failures: lack of alignment of culture with new values or outcomes, stuck in their old ways of thinking, lack of knowledge or experience, lack of support at the right levels, unwillingness of those that need to change, mechanical following of the rules, lack of trust, not a safe learning environment, etc.

I have used almost all of these reasons, or to be fair excuses, for why things failed or at least didn't get to the level of success I hoped for. I am also clear that each of these reasons direct the cause of failure away from me.

An interesting observation is, I have seen success when each of those reasons existed. Somehow we found a way, despite those reasons, to do something awesome. Actually, I have not seen any situation where multiple or even many of these did not exist. That is why I am clear that they are just excuses. The fact is, I am not at the source of what enabled us to overcome these excuses in one context and not in another.

Surely, there is a way of operating that does not need to blame


I am on a journey to discover what it takes to cause a group of people to become a team and iterate towards success. That is, to take on something that they say is worth doing and overcome every excuse we have to achieve it. I do not think this will guarantee success. I hope it will reduce the excuses and blame for what happens.

Here are a few things I have observed about myself that likely can help me to have empathy for others. I bring a lot with me that is unlikely to lead to success. I have biases and thoughts that run through my head that I have trouble "getting rid of". These thoughts often sound like: they don't care, they don't get it, what !@#$%^&* idiots and worse. This might also sound like: if they would just do what I told them because I am the expert, I have done this in the past and it worked so you should too, everyone knows this is the best/right/proven/[insert other make wrong term here] way to do it. I can usually find a good justification for the thoughts in my head and they are still not likely to be very helpful.

I have also observed a few other thoughts, that frankly I listen to less often than those previous ones. They sound something like this: I know this person is not an idiot so what do they see that would cause them to view the situation so differently, I wonder what they know that I do not, I wonder if they have had an experience that I have not or why is that causing me to react so strongly.

Based on my experience with my own thoughts, one of the first things to deal with is the first set of thoughts, which are the ones I tend to act on. How many of the normal failure reasons can be attributed to those thoughts and the reactions they generate? If people in a group come with those thoughts what is the likelihood we will have the actions that we associate with alignment, trust, safety, support, discovery, new options for how and what we do? Since we likely all come with those types of thoughts, what will cause us to put those aside, as many times as necessary, in order to create space for a group to act together towards a goal?

When I cannot or do not even try to get clear on where the other person is operating from I have only one option left to me, convince them to agree with me (see previous post on agreements), or put another way, use force to convince people I am right and they are wrong.

Ugh! Surely, there is a better way.

Another aspect is the ability to be responsible and accountable for what happens without blaming. Success or failure will have consequences. This seems to be the reality we live in and it is not easy to cope with.

So they journey continues...