The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
*** A BIG thank you to my readers now in 75 countries around the world! Wow. ***

Success Measures

Success Measures:
Performance vs. Value

Success really just comes down to working hard and achieving results, right?
Oh, if only it was that simple.

What if I told you that in many organizations, those considered to be most successful are often among the least accomplished?  Wait.  What?

From the time we’re children, we’re told that success in business comes from hard work and achievement of our goals.  The concept is so crisp and pure, so optimistic.  The thought that hard work equals success is appealing in many ways.  When we work hard, we achieve.  When we achieve, we win! It wasn’t until many years later I realized how naive I had been to believe it was that simple.

There’s no question that your success in business is determined, in part, by hard work and achievement.  There have probably been times, though, that you found yourself working hard to achieve significantly for your employer and yet, you didn’t feel successful.  The recognition you wanted didn’t come. The rewards you expected didn’t materialize.  The opportunities for advancement never presented themselves.  Maybe you were confused as to why others were being perceived as more successful, especially as they contributed less than you did. 

The trick is that hard work and achievement alone don’t deliver success on a shiny, silver platter.  So what else impacts your success in the workplace?  While each business is unique in how it defines success for its employees, concepts of “Employee Value” are fairly consistently applied.  Your value to an employer directly impacts your success.  Value is determined through a complex and delicate balance of several variables. 

It’s easy to evaluate success on tangible measures of performance.  It’s far more complicated when a broader view of success, with multiple variables, is taken into consideration.  Many business leaders aren’t even aware that they’re making these types of assessments on a daily basis.  Trust and believe that they are, whether they’re aware of it or not. The better you understand the importance of these measures, the more empowered you are to succeed.

The following six variables impact your perceived value as an employee: Performance, Competency, Alignment, Loyalty, Relative Contribution, and Relationships.

     1.     Performance Matters.

Just when I’d convinced you that hard work and achievement aren’t the holy grail of success, here they are back in the mix.  While it isn’t the only indicator of success, performance matters.  It remains the most important element of success relative to your reputation in particular.  You should give your best to all you do at work.  Perform well.  Don’t invest in the other elements of success by compromising this one.  Even if your organization declares you successful, you won’t feel it with any level of integrity.

2.     Core Competencies Create Value.

Your perceived success in an organization has a lot to do with the specific skills and competencies you bring to the table.  If your organization values your skills, you’re more likely to be successful (regardless of your accomplishments.)  Knowing your core competencies is important.  Ensuring you’re in a role that allows you to use them, to the benefit of the organization, is equally important. 

You may have many competencies that bring value to your employer.  Maybe your skills is organization that allows your team to execute well, humor that provides stress relief, charisma that allows you to lead others, or negotiation skills that save the company money.  Whatever your skills and talents, know them and use them fully every opportunity you have.  Core competencies create value.  To learn more about cultivating your talents, check out this excellent program:

3.     Alignment Makes You A Better Fit.

This isn’t rocket science, but it’s important.  The better you “fit” within an organization, the more success you’ll enjoy over time.  Even if your contributions are far less than someone else’s, if you play well with others in the workplace you’ll be seen as more successful than someone who doesn’t.   This has to do with aligning to the company culture, supporting the company’s goals, and behaving in a way that mirrors the company’s norms. 

If challenging the status quo is encouraged, do it and know it will support your overall pursuit of success.  If challenging the status quo is discouraged, do it knowing it may impact your perceived value to the organization – even if it’s the right thing to do and the company benefits from any actions taken.  This isn’t about avoiding productive conflict or denying a unique perspective.  It’s about doing so in a way that the organization understands and accepts. 

It doesn’t always make practical sense, but sometimes ‘easy’ just feels better within an organization.  Your political capital increases when you find yourself in that flow.  This is often the biggest roadblock to success at points in your career.  You either have to adapt or leave if success eludes you.  Sometimes even small changes in approach can pay off in big ways when it comes to alignment and fit.  The more you can find a way to go with the flow, the more successful you’ll be.

4.     Loyalty and Flexibility Are Key.

How many times have you wondered why someone who is clearly not an A-player is still with an organization, years after his or her last major contribution?  One of the intangibles in business is that loyalty can serve you very well.  If you demonstrate consistent loyalty to your company, everyone knows you have no intention of leaving.  You’ll do whatever the company asks of you, often making sacrifices on its behalf.  You may show flexibility by taking on various roles or moving geographically to satisfy a company need.  Companies generally value and reward loyalty, as they should.  Without a doubt, lack of visible and consistent loyalty impacts your ability to be successful in an organization. 

One note:  Loyalty without performance or competency doesn’t get you very far.  Don’t expect to use this as your sole platform for success.  Loyalty also shifts over time as people come and go, so don’t align too closely with any one individual or group.

An example:
An executive I worked for once told me that he wanted to see the company’s blood flowing through my veins.  He wanted to know without a doubt that he could count on me to do whatever, go wherever, and be whatever they needed.  At that particular time, I wasn’t willing to move, travel 100%, or take on roles that weren’t interesting to me.  Do you think this impacted my ability to be successful long-term at his company?  Absolutely, and it should have.  The company needed long-term loyalty and flexibility that I couldn’t commit to.  I knew in that moment my success would be limited at some point no matter how hard I worked or how much I contributed.  My “value” was less than someone who demonstrated loyalty and flexibility, even if their competencies and performance were sub-par to mine.  The lesson?  Understand and accept the impacts of your choices in this area.

5.  Relative Contribution Is In Play Every Day.

We all like to think we’re evaluated on our own merits, but in truth we’re always being compared to others in business.  Relative contribution is a measure of how we stack up to others.  This has to do with how hard we work, how much we contribute, how much initiative we show, and the overall value we bring – relative to others in similar roles. 

Relative contribution is perhaps where employee value comes most into play.  You don’t have to be in the top 20% of contributors, but you certainly don’t want to be in the bottom 20%.  Just knowing that you want to stand out in the crowd is often enough to keep you out-pacing your peers.  In situations where all other variables are the same, a review of relative contribution is often what determines who is assigned the next exciting project or given that highly visible promotion.  Establishing your value on the scale of relative contribution isn’t a one-time event.  It’s an ongoing effort.  Check in with yourself, and your boss, regularly to know where you stand.

6.     Relationships Matter More Than You Think.

There is never a time in your life when relationships with people in positions of influence don’t matter.  The challenge in business is that you never know with total clarity who has influence today or who will have it tomorrow.  Consistently treating people with respect, and establishing productive and collaborative relationships at work is so important.  This, in my opinion, is non-negotiable.

To further ensure your success, you may choose to build an internal network of connections in an organization.  Building a strong base of support among people of influence can serve you well if you have an ambition to achieve beyond your current role.  The key to success is to be authentic in the process, being clear in your intent to build a strong network.  People are more likely to respect you, and support you, if you’re transparent about your intent.
If you choose not to network, you can still be very successful based on the other elements discussed here.  Don’t be surprised, however, if you’re denied an opportunity at some point, as it’s given to someone who is better connected and has a larger base of support.  It’s the way of business.  Ambition is often rewarded.


Bottom Line:  There is no question that hard work and tangible achievement of results matter in the pursuit of success.  Just don’t fool yourself into believing that’s all that matters. Your overall value to an organization significantly impacts your ability to be successful.  If you don’t tend to all aspects of your value, you risk limiting your success long-term.  Be conscious of your performance, but also focus on your competencies, your alignment, your loyalty, your relative contribution, and your relationships. 

It’s unlikely that anyone else will help you find the perfect balance.  Nor is there any one, right answer.  Sometimes just knowing what’s in the mix, what you’re willing to do, and what you’re absolutely not willing to do, helps you find the best answer… your best answer.

My best to you.