Category: Team Culture

Happiness Or Success…Choose Wisely


What quickly becomes ingrained in us from a very young age is that specific events will make us happy. Getting married (or divorced), making a sale, passing a course etc – all of these things get somehow tied in to whether we are happy or not. What is awfully difficult to do is ‘be happy’.

Happiness is, by virtue of being tied to such events, a moment. As it is also tied to an event – it therefore dissipates as the outcome of that event also fades. Worse still, as we anticipate these events, our happiness builds and unfortunately the feeling generated from the event itself can be disappointing in comparison to our anticipation of it.

What we do is trade happiness for happy moments. We don’t seek to be happy.

There’s increasing writings and research on the ‘choose happiness’ mindset which is happiness isn’t something we get, isn’t a destination, isn’t a event – but something we choose to be. Often easier said that done isn’t it?

Not only do we learn to link happiness with moments/events – we also learn to tie happiness to success, but the wrong way around. We think happiness is an outcome of success.

If we look at happiness in a professional context – scan your office. Who are the happy ones? Are they also the successful ones?

So now we’re starting to think about the links between success and happiness. Are they inter-twined? Often you will find that success breeds happiness – albeit often, unfortunately, for only as long as the success continues.

So, does happiness breed success? Hold on – this now challenges a mindset doesn’t it. This actually means you must choose to be happy before you are successful and being happy will drive success. Is it not amazing that when you are on roll professionally, success seems to find your more easily? But hold on – surely to get on that roll you must have been successful in the first place? Yes, but why were you is the question? Sullen, concerned, negative, mopey sales people seldom get success. But they constantly think ‘I will be happy when I am successful’. What they are basically saying to themselves is ‘I am currently a failure’. They just hide this truism by the way they phrase their internal monologue as it is easier as success is something that will happen to them whereas happiness is an effort they have to choose now.

What also happens if you tie happiness to success in this way? Well, you can pretty much guarantee that even when you are successful, whilst you may be happy, the next ‘moment’ looms on the horizon. You have a fantastic year, you’ve hit top of the leaderboard and you get a massive bonus cheque. Woohoo!!!! However, the following day your sales leader gives you next years target – and thump – ‘well I guess I can be happy again in 12 months time when I hit this one too’. When we tie happiness to events – we are actually seldom happy for long. Successful people are the most guilty of this as they constantly reset their goals once they hit them. Similarly, there is no such thing as a perfect situation so, whilst that particular ‘event’ we’ve been hanging our happiness on may make us happy situationally, we have other ones we’re juggling which are casting a shadow on it. We are seldom 100% happy.

To use an example of how we’ve tied happiness to success from a very young age.

When you watch a young child play sport for the first time – they are simply happy to be involved. To be doing it. To be outside. To be with their friends/family. They are happy simply because of the involvement. They’re the kid playing in the mud on the sports field rather than chasing the ball. They’re simply happy being there. The sheer effort and involvement makes them happy. If you’re a parent, you’ll even know that even the thought they could be going out to play makes them excited.

However, as they get better the sport and it becomes more serious – what changes?

Somewhere along the line we shift our basis for being happy from effort to outcome. Again, we sub-contract out our happiness to a moment/outcome/score. As parents, we’re often guilty of this in how we praise our children. When they win – instead of going – that is because of all the practise and effort you put in – we often go – that is because you are talented. Think about this with school tests – when your child aces a test – do you go ‘this is because you studied hard’ or ‘you’re so smart’? What happens when you child then encounters someone who practised harder than them? How will they react? Will they go ‘I need to practice harder’ or ‘I’m bad at this sport’. Will they go ‘I’m happy with the effort I put in and will try harder next time’ or ‘Woe is me I lost, I am just not good enough at this sport?’.

Will they actually continue to enjoy a sport where they originally were excited simply to play but now their happiness hinges on the outcome? Is this not the reason many people give up sport and many other things in life. They get to the point where there is more effort required to improve and they perceive their chances of success are lessening – so chasing success and therefore happiness is a worthless cause? Is this simply because rather than deriving happiness from the improvement itself, they are deriving it solely from the outcome?

To demonstrate the point: How many times have you chosen not to do something simply because there was someone better than you doing it? I know I have.

Bring this to work now. Replace sport with sales targets? Is it any different? We are professional sub-contractors of our happiness as a rule. Worse, do we ‘opt out’ entirely where we believe we can’t be successful?

We have leaderboards which tell us if we are better or worse than our peers. We have market share data which tells us if we are better or worse than our competitors. We have targets which tells us if we have passed or failed this month. We have customers that tell us if we are liked or not. We can often be praised if we win a deal, ignored or worse if we don’t. We are professionals at allowing others to tell us when to be happy!

Sales leadership is like that sporting parent. You can either focus on the effort and growth or the outcome. Each has a very different impact on happiness (and mindset)

You shape whether your team externalises their happiness or not through how you lead them, coach them and remunerate them.

How Do You Own Your Happiness?

Know Your WooHoo Moments.

Where do you have your ‘woohoo’ moments in your job?

What parts of your role give you motivation, energy and drive you? Sure we all love when we hit our target – and this actually may be your ‘woohoo’. But choose it consciously for yourself, not because someone else says it’s important. Every one gets energy from different sources.

Once you know what drives you, it becomes quite powerful. One of my team told me ‘winning deals’ is where I get my energy. Fantastic! But let’s talk about what that means. So if we know winning a deal is important – how does this affect your view of personal development? Huh? Surely, if winning deals is where you get your energy, you will invest time for your personal development to continually get better to improve your skills to win more consistently. To drive more woohoo’s.

Amazing how knowing where you get your energy provides context to the other things you need to do in your role. To extend this, if you love winning deals – surely having a ‘crowd’ is important, more so than lone wolfing? Because, through having a crowd, you have advocates, knowledge experts, shared resources etc. They can help you win more deals, together. Isn’t it an even better feeling to share that win? Knowing where your energy comes from can alter your context as well.

Know Yourself

What do you hold core to who you are? Is it family, being an expert, being wealthy, being respected, being part of a team? What are your core values? Usually what you will find it your ‘woohoo’ moments will align to your value and your high energy use moments will conflict with them. For example – if ‘Family’ is a core value for you, you may find after work functions difficult, but love breakfast functions instead? (I am this person and it took me a while to work out). If ‘Health’ is a core value and you’re not making time for to exercise, you will eventually become unhappy.

What is as equally important to knowing where you get your energy, is to know where you lose it. What is harder to do for you. Even if you speak to people who absolutely love their role – they will have parts that don’t enjoy or aren’t good at. If you can, minimise, delegate or avoid it. If you can’t, consciously choose to do it in the context of knowing how it moves you towards your real purpose.

Know Where You’re Going

When you don’t have a vision/plan – it is much easier for the negative moments to override the positive because, if you don’t have a plan, you have no idea if you are progressing or not so any and every set back can seem huge. When you have a plan, obstacles are just that, something you need to move around to get where you’re going. You tend to look over the obstacle rather than get target fixation.

A great example is the difference between someone who goes to the gym because ‘they feel fat’ versus someone who goes to the gym to be able to run 10km next month. One is a criticism, the other is a goal. One will see you still lying in bed in the morning because it is raining, the other will see you in your car without a second thought.

Own Your Target

Targets are a fact of life. But the one set for you doesn’t need to be the one you live by. If it is, choose it don’t let it choose you. Too many sales people I encounter can only recite the company’s expectation of them, not their own expectations of themselves. Why? What expectations/targets to you hold yourself accountable to? What is your personal charter? Why you?

In my experience, once you can demonstrate to your sales leader/employer that you hold yourself to a higher standard than they expect (KPI’s are often the minimum expectation in reality) – they will quickly develop a trust in you beyond someone who simply ‘does the job’.

Focusing more on the effort involved than the outcome is also a crucial aspect to how one deals with targets. It isn’t what you have to achieve that is important – it is how you will go about getting there and why. This is the workplace equivalent of showing your workings at school. You may get the wrong answer but a) people can see you tried rather than guessed and b) they can understand how you got there and help. Also – by breaking your targets down – it becomes infinitely easier for you to be present and own your happiness today, rather than postpone your choice to be happy until X occurs.

An example in sales is – if I know what my ‘annual’ expectations are – but I also have trust that if I set myself the goal to ring 6 prospects today, visit one client and speak to an intermediary I will have the greatest chance to achieve this target, I have reset my target in simple form. And if I achieve this by lunchtime – how does my happiness compare than if I am sitting on the 3rd day of the month wondering if I will hit plan or not by the end of it?

In one I will leave that day happy – not that I’ve hit my target, sure, but that I gave what I could to get there.

In the other I spend 27 days hoping I will be happy, versus spending 27 days being happy.

I know which I would rather choose.

Dynamic Happiness

Your woohoo moments will change over time. This is often why we see mature sales people burn out. They start trying to chase the dragon when it comes to their happiness, rather than realise that what drives happiness changes. Like a drug, the happiness from winning deals no longer cuts it. The deals have to be bigger, harder, etc. So what happens is that haven’t realised that what used to make them happy, doesn’t any more.

They haven’t actually burned out – they have simply lost sight of their woohoo moments because they’ve changed and they haven’t.

When we’re younger, simply having a job makes us happy – we’re like the kid playing sport for the first time. Then, as we mature, our happiness starts being contracted out and we let it happen. We let leaderboards, market share data etc determine whether we are happy or not.

Here is an interesting exercise for you to try for the next couple of weeks…..

Next time some one asks you how you are – reply ‘I am awesome, how are you?

Not okay/good/not bad – but awesome, fantastic, brilliant! Why? Imagine the word ‘awesome’ is the scale on which you measure your day. It is your power word. When you say ‘Not Bad’ – are you not saying you measure your day on how bad it is – or ‘No Complaints’ – that a good day is simply when you have nothing to complain about?

Pay attention to what reaction you get. What conversations this incites. More importantly, reflect on how saying it makes you feel. Happiness starts with a thought.


The Great Fail…


Success and failure go hand and glove – whether you like it or not. Even the best fail. Even they keep score of both their successes and their failures.

There is another video from Michael/Nike which goes on to say:

Maybe I made you think my highlights started at the free throw line, and not at the gym…Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God given gift, and not something I worked for every single day of my life…Maybe I made you think that every shot I took was a game winner.’

It’s really easy to look at successful people and to quickly assume they don’t fail – that they have the Midas touch. As a result of being viewed as successful, when they do fail – it is an anomaly. That success is their ‘normal’. The reality is, despite the hours of practice, coaching and visualisation, the best fail. And sometimes often.

As Winston Churchill put it:

Success is going from failure to failure without a loss in enthusiasm

The difference is they don’t make excuses because they fear failure, they simply accept that it is a possible outcome. The biggest difference is what they do to maximise their chances of success and learn from when the don’t. What you often don’t see them doing. We see our sporting stars on the court or field – but seldom do we see the hours they spend in the gym, watching their own games, watching their competition play, practising…we only see the outcome of it.

As Michael Jordan put it – it is very easy to assume successful people are naturally talented rather than worked hard. To paraphrase this in ‘excuse language’ – why should I bother trying as I am not as talented as they are?

In sales, a successful sales person is often viewed as ‘natural’, ‘lucky’ and similar adjectives. But is this about them or about the other person providing excuses as to why they aren’t successful or even trying?

So how do the successful become and stay successful? It isn’t luck or natural talent. Successful people aren’t consistently successful without hard work, self reflection, adaptation, support and growth. Whether in sports or professionally. Michael Jordan has 10 rules for his success which can be equally applied to our professional lives….

  • Rule #1: Keep Working Hard
  • Rule #2: Ignite the Fire
  • Rule #3: Be Different
  • Rule #4: Fail Your Way to Success
  • Rule #5: Have High Expectations
  • Rule #6: Be Positive
  • Rule #7: Be Who You Were Born To Be
  • Rule #8: Have a Vision
  • Rule #9: Stop Making Excuses
  • Rule #10: PRACTICE!

Quite frankly, we could close there as they are a pretty robust set of rules….but what does this mean in action for someone in sales who wants to succeed? How can you put these in to action on a daily basis?

Success starts with practice, not with closure

Like sport and many things in life, success in sales is measured by the outcome, not the input. But also like sport, success in sales comes from what you’ve done up to that point. Many sales people despise practice (does the word ‘role play’ or ‘video’ break you out in cold sweats?). Why is this? More than likely because it is uncomfortable – that we are forced to realise that we have flaws to work on. Because we are judged – by others, and often, and more importantly, ourselves. Well guess what, whether you practice or not, you are being judged anyway…by your client. Do you want them to be the first and only judge of your performance? We’ve all seen those cringe worthy auditions on American Idol of the ‘shower singers’ – don’t be that person with your clients (of course, I exaggerate for effect…I hope).

Natural talent is realised (and maximised) by hard work

Yes, arguably certain personality types and innate skills make selling easier. But none make success a certainty. The old saying goes:

Maybe on the school yard, the child who a ‘natural sprinter’ was able to win without trying – in the work place this is no longer a workable strategy. Regardless of your ‘talent’, there is always someone out their working hard to win your clients and using every ounce of their discretionary effort to deliver them superior outcomes.

This is where having a growth mindset comes in – the belief that abilities and intelligence can continually be developed

The talent/skill you have today isn’t enough for tomorrow. It isn’t fixed or finite – it is fluid. If you don’t use it – you get left behind. It is realised and can be grown through hard work and practice.

Remember, you practice as you play – so work hard with both.

(Re)Assessing yourself

It is almost impossible to find a professional athlete that doesn’t have a coach, often more than one. Same goes in most CXO positions. Why? It forces constant assessment and reassessment of yourself. It also externalises it and means is needs be to faced. Athletes dissect each performance – good and bad. They watch video footage, assess statistics. All of this is focused on honing their strengths and minimising/eliminating their weaknesses. Again, using a growth mindset, even if your skills are good – they can always be better.

This is a sales leaders job – to help your team review and refine themselves. You should be at meetings observing, preparing, briefing – working across all facets of your teams skill base to help them improve, grow and be more successful. As a sales person, you need to be hungry for this feedback to improve. This is Jordan’s Rule #5 in action – have high expectations of yourself.

Most importantly, you and your team need to have a feedback culture. Where it is asked for, readily received and acted on – internally and externally.

Reviewing your competitors

Much the same as looking inward – you need to look outward. Professional athletes and teams spend valuable time on assessing their competitors – so should you in sales. Knowing where they are strong and weak relative to you is important. Strategies need to adapt based on the environment you are operating in. Your competitor may have particular product/services strengths in areas you don’t, or relationships you are yet to form – you can’t ignore this. Do you know your competitors? As a sales person, do you know the other sales person as, being individual, they will sell uniquely to you and, as a result, will get different reactions and outcomes. Do you know who you’re selling against? Do you spend anytime here?

Having the right equipment

As good as your skill level is, some things can be limited by the tools you have at your disposal. In sales, do you have the right relationships, support, collateral and other facets required to help you succeed? Do you know who to call when you don’t have the answer for the client? Do you know what to do when something goes wrong? Do you have access to the right information at the right time and in the right format? Do you have the right team in behind you, fully engaged, to deliver the promises you’re making?

Do you use them consistently? Do you prepare the same for every meeting? Or follow up? Is your pre-game ritual the same each time? Successful sales people can be automatons in this regard – sticklers to routine in an almost superstitious manner. Watch Djokovic pre-serve bouncing the ball, or Nadal with his towel. Quirks yes, but they remove distraction and focus them on what is coming next. They are getting everything in alignment. What do you do? Or is it seat of pants and hope for the best?

I’ve used the quote before from Abraham Lincoln, but if you’ve got 6 hours to cut down a tree, ensure you spend 4 of it sharpening the axe. Are your tools sharp?

Visualise the Outcome

The big question – why are you sitting in front of that client/prospect? Why? What is the outcome you have in your minds eye? Here is where we diverge dramatically from the sporting analogy as, unlike sport, the person sitting opposite you isn’t the competition. They aren’t someone you conquer. So, next question, do you believe your outcome is the same as that of your client/prospect? Should it be? Successful people are very good at visualising the outcome they expect to get and clarifying that of their clients. Again, getting everything in alignment.

The reality is you need to know why you are in front of the client – short, medium and long. Sure, the short term solution may be to ‘fix the problem they have’. The medium term solution may be ‘ensure they are happy and loyal’ – but what is your long term purpose? Why do you want this client/prospect? Not knowing this means you are doomed to completing transactions/deals.

Enjoy the game

Successful sales people enjoy what they do. Personally, I struggle with the concept people are in sales, hating it. It makes no sense. If you don’t like it, how can excel at it. How can your clients can superior outcomes? Why would you bother improving yourself at something you don’t like?

Passion is undoubtedly linked to success in the long term.

First Learn To Fail

Out of all of this comes the key aspect of Jordan’s ten rules – in order to succeed, first you must learn to fail (and learn from it). As you stretch yourself, failure is inevitable, you can’t stop it – but you also can’t let it stop you. In fact, it is a barometer of effort (provided you’re not repeatedly failing at the same thing). As Jordan is quoted:

Sure, you can limit failure by not stretching yourself outside what you know or not even giving it a go. But whilst you might not fail at what you didn’t try – haven’t you already failed by not even trying? Growth comes from being outside our comfort zone.

The Great fail. Often. With alarming regularity actually. But they never use it is an excuse? Are you?

I started with video on Jordan and it seems fitting to end with on:

Must Read: Legacy by James Kerr.

James Kerr from Legacy wrote about the 15 All Black Principles – ‘The First XV’.

And what can we – as individuals, companies and teams – learn from The All Blacks.  The world’s most successful sporting outfit, undefeated in over 75% of their international matches over the last 100 years. What is the secret of their success?

Here is a diagram of these principles


I would encourage you to look at his book with further information on this content if you are looking to developing team culture – particularly around the power of legacy in a team.  It is an investment in team development you won’t regret