In a recent post I talked about how to stay focused on a goal by measuring the steps along the way. I want to expand on that idea by telling you about what happened at a major event I chaired a few months ago.

I’m privileged to be coordinator of education for two local women-in-business networking groups, and I thought it would be useful to include both groups to create a full-day educational event. By joining forces we could not only combine resources but also benefits to the individual groups. Success was practically guaranteed!

Or … so I thought!!!

For seven months, my committee of twelve dedicated, motivated, proactive women met to plan this event. Easily over 400 women-hours were spent making this event first-class. Perhaps we aimed high – not ONE of us had experience in planning this large an event!

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As we worked through the project, there were so many challenges. We had equipment shortages, technical problems, scheduling conflicts, a surprise last-minute vendor, catering issues… OK, you get the point. We could have allowed each of these problems to disappoint us and make us feel that the event was not a success.

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But we were smart – early in the process we had defined what a successful event would be.

  • Goal: 150 attendees. Success would be 100. We ended at 139 registrants.
  • Goal: $3000 profit for each group. Success would be breaking even. We ended splitting $3000 between both organizations.
  • Goal: Every person raves about the success of the event. Success would be 4 out of 5 ranking on the evaluation forms. We ended with a 4.8 average ranking.
  • Goal: Every speaker and sponsor felt their contribution was highly valued. Success would be 90% of the speakers and sponsors felt their contribution was highly valued. We ended with 100%.

The advantage of being able to clearly define success is both practical and emotional.

First, the emotional side . . . for many on this committee (myself included) perfection was the goal. Falling short of perfection was realityLisa Speaks 2, and having a second standard of success helps even out the emotions – a threshold and a high bar!

On the practical side, we knew in which areas we needed to put in extra effort. I like to think of this as the 80/20 rule: 20% of your effort will get you 80% of the results, and 80% of the effort will give you 20% of the results. By knowing how we defined success, I knew when to use 20% of the effort and when to use 80% of the effort.

For example, we wanted to be sure that sponsors and presenters felt highly valued, so this had a high “value of success” for us and needed extra effort. One of the ways we were going to show our appreciation was to give the speakers flowers after their presentation. As we were setting up the night before, some of these flowers were wilting. So, on my way to the venue at 5:30am on event day, I picked up some replacement flowers from the local grocery store. The definition of success for decorations wasn’t exceptionally high so if these had been decorations, it would not have been critical. However, our definition of success for how our speakers feel was very high. Therefore, it was worth the extra “80%” effort to pick up new flowers!

I encourage you before starting any project to define success. What is your ideal outcome – and what is the outcome you would be happy with? Defining success doesn’t open the door to “low expectations” or “shoddy work ethic”. Instead, it allows you to allocate your resources wisely.

Tell me, how do you define success in your projects? Comment below – I’d love to know!

Do you consistently struggle with projects both large and small? A little coaching may be the answer. You can develop a framework and a system that allows you to put first things first – and live a life of purpose, accomplishment, and fun. You can turn ideas into action! Click below to apply for a complimentary Discovery Conversation.

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