Most of us know the basic formula for achieving success professionally: work hard, build solid relationships and do the tasks that lead to real achievement — not just busy work.
However, when we are successful, handling it with grace is not always so straightforward. In the business world, I often see very successful people slide into the “star zone,” a place where resting on laurels quickly leads to a rude awakening.
In fact, I remember way back when my own success was going to my head, although at the time I wasn’t cognizant of this descent into Star-land. But before I hit rock bottom, a wise old man took me aside and told me the truth about how I sounded. What a wakeup call! From that day forward, I stopped hustling to promote myself and tried harder to stay grounded.
That same mentor taught me to accept praise politely, always responding with a simple “thank you.” Not downplaying my achievement, but not tooting my own horn, either. Like me, you may have hit a few home runs in your organization, but that doesn’t qualify you for superstar status. Today’s savviest entrepreneurs know achievement yesterday is no guarantee of success tomorrow. True leaders are always looking forward, not backward.
Success Is the Opposite of ‘All About You’
We tend to see success as a solitary feat, but the truth is very few of us achieve any kind of success alone. Rather, most accomplishments are the product of our efforts in a team environment. Our relationships with those around us mean everything, and we can leverage them by cooperating with our peers – treating our employees with respect and communicating clearly with the boss.
Early in my retail career there was a guy who drew the most admiration in this area: Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who for years Forbes ranked the richest man in America. The measure of “Mr. Sam’s” success was not the massive number of items his company sold, but rather that he alone could make you feel like you were his first priority. A conversation with “Mr. Sam” was like talking with your best friend.
He was constantly curious about which products were selling and how he could improve his stores, which required talking to people on the sales floor. Wal-Mart was never about him. Good business was about customers, associates, products and stores. And when he left the store, it was in an older pickup truck. That image of humility stuck with me. Walton never let success go to his head.
Handling success with grace means finding time for other people and then always putting them first. No matter how successful you are, stay closer to the ground than the stars and you will earn the respect and admiration of everyone around you.