Updated Mon, Jul 7, 2014 8:19 am
Have you noticed that some people can go from success to success, while others stumble fairly quickly, then seem to spend more time down than up? Of course luck can help, but the people who keep landing on their feet tend to have something in common. The perennial winners don't take success for granted — they keep hustling, even in the good times.
In work, as in life, things usually are either getting better or getting worse. It's the like that for organizations as well as for people. Nothing stays the same for long. So when things are going well, savvy careerists don't just sit back and let the good times roll.
Just as you must take action in order to break out of a downward spiral, it's smart to support your momentum when it's already positive. If you are looking for ways to perpetuate success, in your own career or at the place where you work, consider these strategies:
Pinpoint the brightest spots. Sometimes when people are winning kudos or making money, they just enjoy the results and don't ask questions. A smarter approach is to gather data that will more precisely describe the basis of your success. Let's say that you are making good money selling three products, each for $100. But what if a closer look at your costs shows that one product is more expensive to produce than the others because of the extra time you have to spend on it? With more detailed information you may find that you can make even more profit by phasing out or redesigning the time-consuming item. In other words, good information may help you to improve performance even when you're doing well.
Build on strengths. Doing well at work requires certain disciplines, processes and standards. Sometimes people stumble because they get busy and cut corners, or get arrogant and act lazy. To stay on top, it is important to keep refining the methods and approaches, and polishing the expertise, that brought you success in the first place. Regardless of where you are in your career, one way to keep moving forward is to consistently chart your course with a meaningful professional development plan.
Listen to your customers. Even when your customers (and bosses) already love you, pump up your game by listening carefully to what they have to say. If you understand their goals and problems, you may spot new ways to add value. If you concentrate on understanding what others need, your own contribution will continue to grow.
Look around. When you are on a winning streak you may feel so busy that you don't have time to think about the bigger picture. If so, you are facing a big risk: tunnel vision. Just because you are successful today, doesn't mean you can ignore the broader environment. It is not enough to simply benchmark your competitors. Change can come from any direction, and reframe your profession. Consider, for example, what happened to print reporters who focused on competing only with rival newspapers. Strong players are well informed about the wider world. And being engaged in any kind of learning experience, even if it's not directly related to your day job, can help you to keep an open mind, spot emerging trends and see things in new ways.
Be grateful. Keeping and regularly reading a "gratitude list" is a well established technique for maintaining optimism during tough times. In the context of work, your list might include the people who support you, your education and skills, and lucky career developments. If your work life is thriving, your list can help you keep your perspective, and remind you of the individuals and opportunities that contributed to your success. When you are on a roll, a sense of gratitude can help you avoid the dangerous trap of arrogance. If you remain thankful for your good fortune, you may avoid hubris — that ugly, egoistic over-confidence that seems to attract punishment.
I hope you're enjoying a lucky streak right now. What are you doing to keep it going.
Beverly Jones is an alum of Ohio University. Her column appears at Clearways Consulting LLC. Republshed with permission. For archives and additional content, visit the Clearways Consulting website.