Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.

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Learning leads to improvement

Q: Does success breed success? Are people more likely to succeed if they wind up with a successful organization like the New York Yankees or performing beside stars such as Derek Jeter? How often does the expectation and aura of success become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

"Success breeds success" is a nice aphorism. It has a nice ring to it. Consultants like me say it at the end of presentations from an oracular mountaintop. To give the devil his due, sure, if you achieve success of some kind it builds your confidence and boosts your motivation and, oftentimes in a corporate environment, encourages you to gulp down what is humorously called the "corporate Kool-Aid." Word gets around that your product succeeded when the competitor's didn't or your great customer service helped the company take off.

However, if success breeds success, how do we explain the following: Microsoft is successful, but Windows Vista was a complete failure. The U.S. military was very successful in WWII, but failed miserably in Vietnam. The New York Yankees have been the most successful franchise in baseball but, until just recently, they have been legendary underachievers. Steve Jobs built a successful company, was thrown out because the company slumped, and returned years later to once again be successful. The leading salesperson in a software company reaps legendary profit but leaves a resentful, burned out, unmotivated staff in his wake.

The most successful people in any given field, e.g., Tiger Woods or Warren Buffett, typically formulate a plan based on their own analysis, execute that plan by working relentlessly at it, and don't get distracted by adulation or criticism.

When we translate this to organizations, what seems to work is the journeyman system of medieval times wherein the experienced craftsperson imparts the best practices to the novice -- a tangible, communal way of breeding success from success that ended with the industrial revolution.

Good CEOs, leaders, and managers are journeymen. These continuous learners of organizations then turn around and provide a journeyman culture within their teams. They learn together, fail together, and succeed together. High performers thrive and weak performers step up a few notches.

Alan Phillips, President and CEO of Phillips Corp., an international machine tool company, is dedicated to creating a culture of success where continuous learning and improvement are celebrated and supported. Learn something and apply it everyday. That breeds success.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  November 6, 2009; 2:46 PM ET  | Category:  successful connections Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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