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Redefining Success

Posted on October 4, 2017
Chalkboard with the word Success in large letters written on it

Yesterday, I attended the PA Women’s Conference with 12,000 other women (and a few men). In the keynote address, Shonda Rimes talked with former First Lady, Michelle Obama. There were plenty of great nuggets, but one really stood out. Mrs. Obama said, “At some point we need to create a different definition of success at work.”

As women, especially as mothers, and even more especially as single mothers, we learn quickly that success not only means showing up at 8:00, leaving at 6:00 (or later), being present for every tedious meeting, and producing the expected results. We have been conditioned to believe it also means, saying “yes” to everyone at the expense of ourselves.

For some, the solution was “flex-time” or job sharing, but this part-time work usually means just as much work for half the pay, half the benefits, and a virtually complete barrier to promotion.

What is the solution?

Mrs. Obama hit the nail on the head – we need to change how we define success.

I’ve written before on the growing practice of working from home, but that isn’t the only answer. We need to let all workers – men and women – define how they will be successful by laying out their path. This may entail working from home on a weekly basis, it may mean avoiding time-sucking meetings where little gets accomplished, it may mean Skyping with the London team versus hopping on plane. I’m not suggesting that the employee can dictate everything, after all, sometimes the only option is to get on the plane and sit down face-to-face.

There are two aspects at play here: 1) how we get the job done to be successful, and 2) how we then define that success. On the surface, success is about accomplishing a task – big and small, and I believe if we can choose how we can best achieve a goal, we will be much more likely to achieve that goal effectively and efficiently. But success is also bigger than just completing a specific task, it is about us, our career, and our life as a whole. Mika Brzezinski (co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe) said, “There is no one, clear path for women to ‘success.’ There is no map, no obvious way forward because the definition of success is going to be different to each individual person, what is most important as a women, a mother, an employee, is to figure out what you personally need to be happy and complete. It is not enough to build up everyone around you in order to create your own happiness…in order to make sure that you are fulfilled you will need to dig in deep and do your own soul searching.”

Society can’t change the definition of success, if we, as women, don’t start by defining it for ourselves.

So, begin that soul searching, think about what you value, what will make you happy, and make a plan. Suggest your peers do the same. If you are in a leadership position, model this, and encourage subordinates to establish their plans.

Let’s begin the process of redefining success.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Director of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University

Quite source: MyDomain

Posted in innovation-workplace