It sounds backwards at first glance. We’ve all been told that results matter.
At most companies nearly all KPIs measure results, not execution or process. So why am I telling you that focusing on the process is more important than the results?
When you focus only on the results, you may sometimes succeed and sometimes not. Success is heralded by celebration, “goal attainment” and rewards. But what about when you don’t succeed. It can be a crushing defeat when goals are missed, and it can distract from the need to continue to make incremental progress.
Adopting a growth mindset means opening yourself up to the constant opportunities to succeed, rather than seeing opportunities for failure at every turn. It means rather than seeing one large insurmountable mountain in front of you, instead focusing on the first few steps ahead of you and conquering these incremental wins first as you proceed towards the goal. As small wins begin to mount, you start to gain traction, confidence and accelerate your progress.
When you set out to conquer a large goal, it can quickly become overwhelming to see the path to get there. Oftentimes, this results in having no clear path, or even giving up early in the journey. That mountain is ‘too far,’ ‘too tall,’ ‘I don’t have the right gear.’ But when taken as a series of smaller stages, the journey becomes far more feasible. ‘I can make it to that next lookout; that next corner; over that next hill.’
It’s natural to fear failure, but organizations need to reframe what it means to fail. If you are learning from the activities that don’t work out, you are still making progress towards your goals. This is leading you to ultimately succeed, though it may not seem like it in the short term.
Adopting a growth mindset is an acknowledgement that people and organizations are fluid and changeable. The ability to learn and adapt is the key to incremental progress that ultimately leads to success. We have all likely heard the famous quote attributed to Thomas Edison:
“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward…”
Instead of instilling fear of failure, cultivate the value of what can be learned from unsuccessful attempts. Too often, organizations fail to see the larger picture, measuring success only in short term success/failure binaries. This can destroy employee morale and hinder progress. Employees that are frequently told they are doing a bad job based only on results will quickly lose the motivation to change and grow. Instead, organizations should focus on processes that encourage incremental results and fostering a culture of learning. Be clear that every step taken is an opportunity to succeed, not an opportunity to fail.