What Does Success Mean to You? The Forum applies the 70:20:10 lens

A short article on the Harvard Business Review blog this week caught my eye (you have to be a member of HBR to read it, but it’s easy to sign up - membership is free - and HBR is one of the best sources of inspiration and information there is).

It links to a much more comprehensive article by the same researchers titled Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life here

The article is written by Harvard professor Boris Groysberg and research associate Robin Abrahams. In it they discuss the findings from their 4,000 interviews and 80 surveys of senior managers where they asked ‘what does success mean, in work and in life’.

The interesting, although not surprising, finding was that subjective measures were very important, and that factors impacting personal satisfaction were critical. ‘Making a difference’ and working in a good team were common responses in terms of career success perceptions. Rewarding relationships was the most common factor in terms of perceived success in personal life.

It seems that having the largest office, the biggest salary, and the grandest title are not the ‘wins’ that define professional success.  Of course they may matter to some extent but, without reaching the subjective metrics, when taken alone they are poor indicators of success. Interestingly, in these surveys it appears that women place more value on individual achievement, having a passion for their work, receiving respect, and making a difference, but less value on organisational achievement and ongoing learning and development than do men.


Thinking about these findings in in 70:20:10 terms they suggest that meaningful success comes through work and through personal subjective measures such as ‘respect from others’, ‘working with a good team in a good environment’, ‘ongoing learning and development, challenges’ and, particularly, ‘making a difference’. This aligns with Daniel Pink’s analysis of autonomy, mastery and purpose as the three key drivers for motivation and engagement.

Also, the importance of building strong supporting networks (part of the ’20’) is critical – both in personal life and in working life. One of the most important development activities that can be undertaken is to focus on building a strong network.  Much has been written about the importance of collaboration and co-operation in achieving goals.  There is a tool in the Forum Toolkit to help with determining the strength of social networks.  Some organisations have used this prior to annual development objective setting as a simple diagnostic to assess gaps and opportunities to strengthen supporting networks.  If you’re a full Forum member you can download and adapt the tool here.


Read: What Does Success Mean for You?