Most people evaluate success from results.
Whether you’re a pastor gauging the success of your service, a speaker measuring the impact of your sermon, or a team leader assessing the outcome of a recruitment drive, it’s natural to focus on results. I’m a results kinda guy myself.
Successful leaders tend to be results-oriented. After all, isn’t that a primary point of leadership? But my years in leadership have taught me a vital lesson: success isn’t only about results.
Beyond Results: A Broader Definition of Success
If you lead a team or work with others, success can’t be only about results. It isn’t just about the final deliverable. Yes, a great outcome is critical to success. Without a successful outcome, there is no success.
But how should we view a flawed process that produces a good result?
This question has sparked many discussions and arguments in my leadership journey.
“If the results are good, isn’t that all that matters?”
The answer is a resounding no.
Why a Good Outcome Isn’t Enough: Six Key Reasons
A lousy process that produces an acceptable result isn’t a success. Here’s why:
- Repeatability: A flawed process may occasionally yield successful results, but its success cannot be consistently replicated.
- Efficiency: A process may lead to a successful outcome but at the cost of being wasteful, expensive, or time-consuming. A successful process is streamlined and efficient, conserving resources.
- Scalability: An unsuccessful process might work on a small scale or short term but may fail when scaling up or over time. A successful process should be scalable.
- Risk Management: An unsuccessful process can bring hidden risks that surface over time. Even if the result appears successful initially, these risks can cause problems in the future.
- Morale and Satisfaction: An unsuccessful process can lead to employee dissatisfaction, burnout, or high turnover, negatively impacting a team or organization in the long term.
- Learning and Improvement: If you attribute a successful outcome to a flawed process, you might miss opportunities to learn and improve. Prioritizing the process allows for continuous learning and improvement.
Evaluating Success: A Balanced Approach
Every evaluation should consider the outcome and the process of achieving that outcome. Without a repeatable and sustainable approach, success becomes accidental, making the win counterfeit.
Let’s look at an example that happens every Sunday across churches.
Inspiring Non-Givers: The First Step of a Generosity Journey
Monday, July 17,
10 - 11:00 a.m. EST
In this 60-minute session, I’ll explain the 5 types of givers in your church and show you how to incrementally and strategically grow generosity by moving people from one category to the next.
The Sunday Sermon: A Team Effort
Every church (I think) dedicates time during its Sunday service for a sermon. While the pastor typically develops and delivers the sermon, many other people may contribute to its success, including:
- The production people work to create graphics and display scriptures or phrases on video screens.
- Someone creates and inputs content for sermon notes in your bulletin or digital source.
- The person helping craft small group questions from the message.
- The worship leader or music team tries to select a worship set that supports your message direction.
Now, imagine that you missed all your deadlines and delivered your sermon to all these people late. In this scenario, the other people supporting your sermon cannot effectively support you or the content.
Just because you delivered a successful sermon doesn’t mean the sermon was a success.
The Best Leaders Evaluate More Than Outcomes
The best leaders refuse to evaluate only outcomes. And if you’re a leader responsible for outcomes, remember, a lack of planning or processes on your part shouldn’t create emergencies for everyone else.
Evaluating success must always involve looking at both outcomes and the processes used to achieve them. By striking the right balance, we can ensure sustainable and repeatable success, avoiding accidental wins and nurturing an environment of continuous learning and improvement.
If you’re looking for some additional leadership process and results conversations, check this out: