More data and working harder are not always the answer, particularly if you’re trying to do everything yourself.
5 min read
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In your pursuit of long-term business success, you’ve likely adopted some false beliefs about what you and your business need to do to succeed. There’s no doubt that success is in the eye of the beholder. Numerous interviews with rich and famous entrepreneurs and corporate leaders prove that.
To Sir Richard Branson, true success boils down to living each day fulfilled. For Mark Cuban, it’s waking up with a smile knowing you’re doing what you want — and loving every minute of it, even when you’re scraping together pennies. The late John Wooden had yet another definition of success, measuring it by one’s ability to self-compete and improve, rather than to defeat others.
Define it for yourself, then for your team.
Of course, these leaders’ words only sum up how they feel about success. Your beliefs will be unique to your upbringing and ideals, education and experiences. You might not be motivated by money or power — maybe changing others’ lives is far more exciting to you. Does connecting people give you the chills that a big paycheck doesn’t? While you owe it to yourself to explore others’ recommendations for success, don’t fall into the trap of heading toward a “successful” destination that won’t deliver an ounce of personal meaning.
However you define success for your business, make sure you communicate that vision clearly to everyone on your team. And as you re-evaluate what your business needs to do to succeed, ask yourself whether the following myths are getting in your way.
Myth #1: Data is always the answer.
Make no mistake: Data is a critical component for any organization. Data is helpful when it’s used to inform your decisions, but it can hinder if you let it make decisions for you. Data isn’t the end-all answer to every question, especially when it comes to creative content. You might put emphasis on the wrong data points simply because they’re at your fingertips.
Christopher Rudy, co-founder and chief strategy officer of next-gen media company Cut, describes this “rabbit hole” experience of chasing the wrong data. “We skipped the part where we asked whether these were the right metrics or, more importantly, how we can use them to make better stuff,” he says. “We shouldn’t be relying on data to tell us what to copy or follow; we should be using data to ask better, more informed questions about how to direct our creative energy.”
Take time to truly analyze the data available to you. Make sure that you’re not overwhelming yourself and your team with data you don’t need, and establish processes that seek input — not decisions — from the data you use.
Myth #2: The harder you work, the more success you’ll see.
Yes, you need to work hard, but there’s a point of diminishing returns. Long hours lead to stress, which research cited in Harvard Business Review has shown negatively impacts your physical health and business productivity. Put simply, hard work by itself isn’t enough. You need a purpose, or you’ll burn out with very little to show for your efforts. For instance, what if you work toward getting an industry award you don’t care about just because everyone says you deserve it? You could ignore other priorities to toil on the application and schmooze the right people, but even if you grab the brass ring, you may resent every wasted moment.
While it’s fine to put in overtime occasionally, do so in pursuit of a goal that you’re passionate about. Spending hours on your computer after the kids go to bed can be worth it if you are moving toward your bliss, but not if you aren’t. So don’t be afraid to nudge your business in a slightly different direction if it gives you and your team more meaning and passion about the work that you’re all doing.
Myth #3: The best leaders are DIYers.
When you get in over your head, your best move is to ask for a helping hand. Don’t worry about seeming “weak;” just make a request. It’s far riskier to try to do everything on your own than to seek out assistance. The days of the tough entrepreneur who does it all by him- or herself are long gone. You can still have the drive of a superhuman without losing face for asking for, say, financial advice or sales coaching.
In fact, a University of Georgia researcher conducted multiple studies that discovered a willingness to ask for help is what set exceptional achievers apart from ordinary ones. In addition, roughly seven out of 10 corporate leaders chalk up networking as an essential aspect of their business lives, according to an Intuit study.
Do yourself a favor and take off the superhero mask: You don’t have to be the go-to person every time or the one with all the answers. Ask for help and seek out valuable business partnerships, even if doing so requires you to acknowledge that your business isn’t best-in-class in a certain area just yet.
Your career path doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s, nor does your definition of success. Just make sure that you end up in a role that excites you, and career fulfillment is likely to follow.