Think back to your last major blunder. You probably agonized over it, evaluating what you did wrong and how you could avoid doing that again in the future.
But what about when you got it completely right?
You probably celebrated, felt great, and moved on with your day. You probably didn’t analyze what you did well, did you? That’s a big mistake.
Turn it on its head: Why did I succeed?
Author Alan Weiss says that in business, salespeople always ask why they lost the sale, but rarely ask why they won it. Weiss recommends that every commercial team ask every client why they said yes. What made them choose the product or service? Price? Special features of the product? Perceived value for money? Superiority to the competition?
If the sales team doesn’t know why they won, they won’t know what to highlight in the future. If the salesperson believes they won on price, but they actually won on service, the next potential customer may have price highlighted at the expense of service, which could result in losing the next contract (and the next one after that). You can apply this same lesson to your work in-house.
When you’ve succeeded, ask yourself the following questions:
How did I prepare?
Did I do anything differently than I have before?
What did other folks specifically praise about my presentation/memo/work?
What was I most proud of here?
What went better than expected, and why?
Make a note of your answers to this question. Try to distill the specific actions you took and the attitudes you brought to your successful project.
Get outside information
If someone praised your work and didn’t tell you what they liked, go back and ask them. Say something like, “Thanks again for your feedback on my project. One question – was there anything that stood out to you that made it work?”
Ask for specificity. If you don’t, you may come off as needy and asking for additional kudos. Make sure you frame your question as a request for specific feedback on what went well.
Repeat what worked
Once you isolate what went well, be sure to focus on repeating those behaviors. The Pareto principle says that 80% of results come from 20% of the work. If you can drill down on the activities that help you succeed, you can implement them over and over again. That way you can learn from both your mistakes and your successes.
Sharing is caring
This is a great tip to pass on to others too. If you’re noticing a colleague always putting themselves down, remind them of what things they have done right recently. This gesture gives them the ego boost they needed but take it a step further and probe them to think about why they achieved that success.
Their confidence will skyrocket, their performance will improve and I’m sure they’ll thank you later.