I’m waiting for a meeting. It’s a biggie: depending on the report I give, someone either keeps or loses their job, in the next 20 minutes. I’ve already had two big meetings today (on of them resulting in a contact for my company which on its own takes us 20% of the way to our annual targets!). I’ve got a huge meeting to come with a very influential man in my field.

I really can’t afford to screw up at any point at all today, so I need to stay calm.

The killer question is “How?”

I’ve written in a lot of other places about tools and tricks. Here I want to concentrate on just one more – and it’s so simple I feel embarrassed typing it.

But here goes…

Ready?

Know what success looks like.

See! Told you it was embarrassingly simple!

Here’s the deal.

Everyone knows what it feels like to screw up, right? We all know exactly what it feels like to fail – or at least we can imagine it. It’s not hard… the laughter, the mockery, the sense of having let everyone down; the letter saying you didn’t get the job…

But what does success look like?

Okay, for getting a job the result is (usually) getting the job, fair enough (although there are jobs you’re better of not getting, trust me on this as I speak from experience!) but for much of the rest of what we do success is harder to describe.

Let’s take my big meeting last thing this afternoon. It’s with arguably the biggest name in my field (presentation skills training) in the UK and obviously I want him to think well of me.

I can imagine a million bad scenarios in my head, but how will I know if the meeting has gone well?

Well, the trick is to figure out what ‘good enough’ looks like. That, of course, is easier said than done but the important thing is always (seriously, always) do that before you get involved. Once you’re up to your neck in something it’s impossible to be objective about things, least of all when to call it a day.

A tool we use…

One technique I’ve found to be remarkably useful is to jot down the project on a sheet of paper… make sure you write it down clearly…. and create three columns. (The image is a grab from my iPhone of a whiteboard in our office about a training day we’re planning.)

The first is the one you’ll find easiest to fill in, so do it first: it’s examples of how you know you’ve screwed up.

Fill in the right hand column next – this one is the same items but now itemized as complete success. Instead of the report being late, the report is now (as an example) written a week early, giving time for reflections and reviews.

With the right hand column filed in it’s much easier to get to the point of the exercise – filling in the middle column… the column of “Good Enough”.

This middle column matches the others, item for item, but now things are only ‘good enough’. For example, if the first column might include the report being late and the middle column would include it being on time – just.

Once you’ve done that, you’re finished. It really is as simple as it sounds. Like all good ideas, the main problem is remembering to use it in the first place! The ‘magic’ of it lies in forcing you to be objective.

Featured photo credit: Sunset via Shutterstock

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