People always ask, “Why did I fail?”  It’s easy to wallow, saying “I don’t know why it didn’t work.  Why was the project unsuccessful?  Was it me?  Why wasn’t I persuasive?”  We’ve all asked ourselves these questions.  It’s easy to ask yourself what went wrong.   

Most of us fixate on the negative and don’t spend nearly enough time on the evaluation of the positive.  While asking, “what went wrong” is important, it is equally or even more important to ask, “Why did I succeed?” 

Alan Weiss is the author of over 60 books on sales and success.  He tells readers to ask why did I succeed as often as they ask why did I fail?  Weiss believes that most people celebrate when something goes well without contemplating why it went well.  He posits that most people dissect interactions only when they go badly.   

Why does it matter if you find out why you’ve succeeded?  Because it enables you to duplicate the behavior, creating more success.  How can you use the success question to its greatest potential?  Why not try the following?    

Request Formal Feedback 

Let’s say your Code of Conduct release went fantastically.  Everyone seemed to have a copy of it on their desk the week it debuted.  The CEO’s video supporting the launch was viewed thousands of times on the intranet, and when you saw others in your office completing the associated training course, they seemed to be genuinely entertained.  You feel terrific.  

When you know something went exceptionally well, see if you can get permission to survey a small portion of the employee population anonymously to find out what they liked about the Code, the launch, and the training course.  You may be surprised by the answers.  Perhaps you thought people liked the peppy tone of the Code, only to find out that most people were compelled by the Q&A and examples that brought life to the more abstract sections of text.  You might believe that people liked the vignettes in the e-Learning course, but it turns out they liked that the training featured a competitive game at the end.  Find out exactly what enabled the success.   

Request Informal Feedback 

In addition to formal feedback, request informal feedback about your success.  Ask people at the water cooler what they liked about the Code.  Try hard not to feed them answers – instead just listen to the feedback and write it down when you get back to your desk.   

You can also solicit feedback via email or phone.  Ideally, request feedback from a number of people you know well and those you don’t.  Be sure to ask the recipient what they liked specifically about the product or experience you created.  If you ask if the person liked the Code or training course, the answer is likely to be, “yes,” or “it was really good.”  Instead of asking what they thought of the Code or e-Learning course, ask what specifically they liked about it.  You’ll get more detailed feedback if you ask the right question upfront. 

Focus on Data

Be sure to aggregate the data you receive so that you can see trends. This will enable you to learn how to replicate the success you’ve had.  Think about how you can apply what you’ve learned.  Let’s say people loved the Q&A in the new Code.  Maybe you can add a Q&A section to your policies to repeat that success.  Or, perhaps you can add a Q&A to your ethics and compliance homepage.  The more you double-down on the things that made you successful, the more momentum you’ll have.   

As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.”  By using the information you receive about your successes, you can repeat the things that worked while putting aside the things that did not.  Take the clues to your success and turn them into practices.  Before you know it, your default activity will be that which has made you most successful in the past.