Success is magic

You can call it the “perfect recipe.” Last month, graduate student Derek Billings told me a story about how his grandfather explained success to him. His grandfather told him that if he just shows up for things, he will be better than 50 percent of his peers. He further told him that if he did his very best, he would perform better than 75 percent. Derek then asked his grandfather what the last 25 percent was, to which the wise old man responded, “Son, the last 25 percent is magic.”

This simple and insightful mentoring that Derek received is in itself the mystery and the magic.

When asked the biggest challenge our companies will face in the next decade, this month’s panel was in clear agreement. Helping people be successful and translating that success into leadership is both the challenge and the solution.

Interestingly, when they discussed the solutions for success and leadership, they didn’t dwell on tasks or technique. They agreed that it was something more, and then proceeded to identify intangible and innate characteristics – the 25 percent, if you will. Then they discussed how best to build success in others.

The success factors
• Being successful is innate. This doesn’t mean that you either have it or you don’t. It means we all have the ability for success and to lead, but these qualities need to be recognized, nurtured and then put to use. Holding it means little; using it means everything.• Fundamentally, we need to understand people. This requires little more than listening and relating to those we work with. Yes, we need the cognitive ability to process information, but it is relating that information that creates successful projects and successful teams.• Success means focusing on others, not ourselves. We don’t live in a world where we can work alone anymore. Everything we do, even if we do it alone, will ultimately reflect on a team. Everyone is our customer, our boss and our teammate. Therefore, everything we do should have an eye on how it will impact everyone else.• We need to leverage individual strengths and stop dwelling on weaknesses. We are all different, and this diversity is true magic. Sometimes we need creative people and other times we need organized people. When combined, critical thinking is the result.• We need to have honest conversations. We can’t survive on status reports and action distribution. It’s in the conversation that awareness and solutions are found. It’s also where we truly get to know each other and ourselves.• We need to be both ambitiously focused on a result and open enough to be flexible to what unfolds. Successful people go with the flow and maneuver through change. They see success as a journey.If we look back at any successful individual, we will find deep mentoring.No book, course or workshop is personal enough to tap the magic in each of us. It takes someone who is laser-focused on us, caring about us enough to assist with self-awareness and sharing hard-fought lessons from experience.

Relying on traditional performance review processes can assist us with quantifying goals, but it can’t get to the real magic in people. Successful people find the magic in others.

Russ Nolin, Derek’s grandfather, took a personal interest in him. It doesn’t matter what Mr. Nolin did for a living. It mattered that Derek was mentored personally. Derek sharing this story with me, his class, our panel and now you, is a gift of transferring his personal experience in search of the magic of success. It’s now our job to seek and share that magic with others.

Dr. Russ Ouellette, managing partner of Sojourn Partners, a Bedford-based executive leadership coaching firm, is project manager of the Future of Everything. Project participants on this topic included Jeremy Hitchcock, chief executive of Dyn Inc.; Melissa Albano, president of Grapevine Marketing; and David Roedel, partner of The Roedel Companies. For more information, contact 603-472-8103