How is success measured? Is it accolades? Being thanked for my service? Being given credit for what I create? Or is it the impact my work has on those whom I serve? And, possibly, the ability to leave a place and have that work continue even in my absence?
During my time as a coach at The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, I worked with an administrator who always talked about “small wins.” At one point during our work together, he was having a hard time with the pressure that district leadership was putting on him to show success. No amount of growth seemed to be enough. In talking, he told me, “I just need some small wins.” It’s hard to look a passionate educator in the eyes and see the strain that this type of pressure puts on them. Especially since he was providing fabulous opportunities for his students and staff. I asked him what he considered a small win. What took me by surprise is that nowhere in our conversation did he ever associate the word win with himself. Everything about winning and success, to him, was about the work he was doing and the opportunities he was providing for his students and staff.
His victory was less about self and more about the work.
As a coach, it was easy to make success synonymous with self. The idea of success could often be conflated and too focused internally, while what creates lasting impact is the work I designed in collaboration with the educators I served. I truly wanted the work to sustain and continue even when I was taken out of the picture. Sure I wanted people like me and I wanted to know that I made them feel good, but I learned to measure success by how inspired and transformed they were by our work; the things we designed together and the products and experiences that we created.
A post from The Story of Telling challenges us to redefine greatness.
...it’s possible for us as individuals to redefine greatness by changing how we measure success—by replacing our winner-takes-all worldview with one that requires us to question if we’re doing work we’re proud of. We each get to choose what it means to be great again. Moment-to-moment and day-by-day we can deliberately decide only to do the things we’ll be proud to have done and to create the future we want to see.
After my conversations and work with this administrator I decided to focus less on me and more on the work that I did alongside those who I coached. I reflected on the work using these questions to guide how I measured success as a coach:
- Are you doing/designing/creating work you’re proud of?
- How is your work (not you) impacting the future, building something, and empowering others?
- How do I ensure that when I leave, the work is sustaining?
- How do I support educators to continue to learn and grow after our work together is done?
- How can I help ensure that educators can carry on the momentum that we had while working together?
- How do I check for sustainability?
- Do I continue to grow these relationships?
My hope was to reflect on my own measures of success. To take small wins where I could and try to leave the people and places I touched better than when I found them.