Reflecting on Success – 10 traits that can get you there

  photo by terren in virginia 

Success is all about finding your strengths (what you’re better at than almost anyone else) and figuring out how to leverage those strengths to reach your goals.  Once you know what you’re good at, what you really enjoy doing and how to translate that into something that others will pay for, then it becomes a matter of refining your model and adding in more traits.

I was reflecting on what makes people successful recently and decided to ask my clients that are in my Peer Group Advisory boards to find out what has led them to the success they’re having to this point.  I was expecting that we would end up with 2 or 3 key points, but surprising (to me at least) everyone had a different key that really reflected on their particular strengths.  They were all great points and things that almost anyone could use to be more successful, but it makes sense that you have to figure out what’s going to work for you.

We ended up with 10 different success traits – would any of these be your first choice?

Planning and Goal Setting (in writing)

One of the things that I work with clients on, and most of them have a hard time doing it themselves, is the importance of developing plans and goals for the short and long term (personal and professional) and getting those down in writing.

A lot of people have goals (kinda sorta…), just not written down.  My experience is that the act of writing the goal down does a couple of things for you:  1.  It forces you to clearly articulate what you actually want to accomplish and the implications of choosing those goals and 2. It generates an element of accountability and progress – are you achieving what you want to achieve, and if not, why not?

To increase the effectiveness of this trait, share your goals with others – like maybe a Peer Group advisory board.  😉

Do you write down your short and long term goals?

Treat your customers right

If you really want to stand out, be remembered (for the right reasons) and generate lots of positive word of mouth and referrals, then customer service, really interacting with your customers and leaving them with a positive experience is a must have.  This is more than delivering a quality service, this is using personal touch to really make a difference for your clients.

When was the last time that you went out of your way to follow-up with a customer and go beyond the basics and interact with them?

Being Responsive

When we initially talked about this one as a group, my first thought was ‘of course you need to be responsive, that’s expected’.  The reality is that very few people are actually as responsive as they should be – and some industries are worse than others.  Think about the terrible reputation that most home services have – “I called 3 plumbers and none of them even called me back!”

In some industries, being responsive and professional is almost all you need to do to really stand out and be different.

Do you return all calls and emails within 24 to 48 hours after you receive them?

Exceeding Expectations – doing your best

This isn’t about sandbagging in order to under promise and over deliver, this is about going above and beyond reasonable expectations and delivering an outcome that you’re proud of.  The idea that you deliver to your clients the same way you would with family and friends.

When you look at your work, are you consistently delivering your best outcomes?

Improvisation – creating new possibilities

This was probably the most interesting response and might not be  a success factor in all businesses.  Life and business are complicated and often the tried and true answer isn’t really what’s needed to truly solve a problem.  The ability to think on your feet, develop a new idea while you’re in front of people, on the fly can be a great way to stand out from the competition.

The opposite approach is to stay locked into the way things have always been done.  Even if you continue to refine and improve an idea that works, there will come a time when you have to shake things up and do something different.  Your ability to improvise a new approach will eventually determine how successful you can be.

Do you routinely take the time to think about how you could do something differently in your business?

Focus – Getting things done

A lot of business owners tend to develop a fire fighting mentality, dealing with emergencies, urgent calls and emails, what ever happens to be ‘on fire’ at the time.  If you can develop the discipline and mind set to focus on the really important things in your business and get them done, then you will outperform almost everyone else.

Do you know the really important things that drive the results in your business and do you have the focus to get those things done?

Genuine face to face interaction

Whether it’s  a skill or a personal trait, the ability to relate well to people can be invaluable.  People like to do business with someone that they Know, Like and Trust and often the best way to generate that kind of relationship is through face to face encounters and letting people know that you genuinely care about them and what they’re doing.

As your business grows, are you actively keeping the personal touch with your employees and customers?

Driven, Tenacious, Committed approach

Life often gets in the way, but anyone that’s reached a high level of success will tell you that it took an element of determination to push through the learning curve and the difficult times and really make things happen.  Some people are naturally gifted and may have an easier road, but I will guarantee there will come a time in your business (at a minimum the first year or two) when you will need to bear down and just keep going.  No matter how difficult it gets, keep moving forward.

Do you always put in the amount of effort you really need to reach your dream results?


Before Customer Service, before improvisation, there’s the little used skill of listening.  Often what someone wants is not what they’ll tell you the first time through – only through active and focused listening (and questions) can you understand what their real drivers are.  Listening to find the real problem, not just a symptom of the situation will enable you to deliver the solutions that your clients really need.

How often do you challenge your clients on what their real problem is (as opposed to what they told you wanted)?

Connecting and Building Relationships

Customer service, listening and being genuine in your interactions are some of the keys to success when it comes to Connecting with people and building relationships.  Additionally you need to have a focus on what you can do to help other people – whether they are prospects are just good connections for you to know.  Your influence and ability to help people and get things done is driven by the quantity and the quality of your connections.

How many new relationships have you built in the last 6 months?  How many have you worked on?

That’s a lot, what should you focus on?

There are a lot of ways to be more effective and more successful.  Everything listed here are great examples of ways to succeed…but you can’t do everything (at least not all at once) so the best thing to do today is figure out what your natural strengths are, and pick out one or two traits like the ones above to work on and improve.

So what’s driven your success so far and what are you going to focus on next to get to the next level?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach