How do you measure success?

Last week I had a coaching call that was particularly important to me. I really wanted it to be a success – even moreso than usual. Afterwards, I was reflecting on the conversation. On many levels, it could have been classed as a failure.

Here are just some of the reasons it could be considered a failure:

  • My client had unfortunate circumstances which meant they hadn’t been able to have much sleep and were consequently pretty tired coming into the session
  • Because of the unfortunate circumstances, my client hadn’t had chance to fully prepare for the session
  • I had forgotten to schedule the session in my video call software and instead had started another scheduled session (which I had scheduled for a different client with similar initials!) and wondered why my client hadn’t yet joined
  • Because I had forgotten to schedule the session I hadn’t actually sent details to my client
  • My client had contacted me a few minutes before the session but because I’m trying to create more space at the moment I had logged out of my email to prepare for the session and missed the message from them
  • I had plugged my laptop into the power socket but not turned the power socket on; it ran the battery down but didn’t give me a warning (possibly because I had ‘Do Not Disturb’ on?) and just shut down during the call
  • When I restarted my computer I couldn’t re-enter the software so had to call back via Skype
  • The session was scheduled for an hour but we talked for around 80 minutes

A few months ago, just one of these things in isolation, and particularly this combination, would have been things that would have made me feel like the session had been a failure. Some of these were unavoidable, some were avoidable but easy mistakes to make.

My overwhelming feeling however was that the session had been a success. Both myself and my client had been committed to the session and despite the challenging circumstances we made it happen. We were both fully engaged in the conversation, and brave in the way we approached it. I coached wholeheartedly, authentically, and courageously. My client, despite the tiredness, was reflective, open-minded and creative, and came away with some fantastic learning and ideas to put into action.

It got me thinking about how we measure success, and the fact that this varies over time, from person to person, as well as in different situations. In general for example, I’m quite task-focused so usually I measure success by how well the task has been achieved and executed. Sometimes however, it’s more important for me to connect with people I’m with and I’ll measure success on different things in these situations. I don’t often consciously think about what makes something a success, but my pondering recently has encouraged me to do so as I go into things which has been helpful. Sometimes I know I have an idea of why I’m doing something as I go into it, but over time I keep raising my expectations so I often never get to the point where I can feel it’s a success or a ‘job well done’. Reflecting on this has encouraged me to be mindful of what would be a success for each small stage of things, and how to remember that, keep it in mind, and celebrate success and learning.

I’d like to encourage you to reflect on how you measure success of things that are important to you. How will you know it’s been a success? What does success look/feel/sound like for you? What could you put in place to help you recognise (and celebrate) success? What could you do to help you move towards success?

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