Are you creating a culture of success or significance?

SMM Staff

Managers spend so much time assessing the performance of others that they often don’t stop long enough to figure out what they feel about their own performance. Most leaders’ performance is measured on success metrics — net profits, market share, sales growth, etc. These tangible targets are important and desired outcomes for businesses and their leaders. Profits help their enterprise remain viable.

But what are the logical consequences of leaders being held accountable only for success metrics? The result is a leadership population (around the globe) that is exclusively focused on success; little else matters in their world, says S. Chris Edmonds, a senior consulting partner with the Ken Blanchard Companies.

In his work with senior-level managers, Edmonds asks them, “What are you trying to accomplish: success or significance?” The question stems from a concept developed by Bob Buford, founder of Halftime (, a program that helps senior executives uncover a purpose-driven life.

Edmonds says, “often, leaders will respond to my question with, ‘What do you mean, significance?’ I try to get them to tell me what significance is, to them. I facilitate a conversation about their personal purpose and about their values. I ask whether the work they do each day enables them to live that purpose and those values - or not.”

Managing for significance means leaders must buck established trends. They must accept that standard practices hold them to success metrics, so, in addition to their success expectations, they create significance metrics.

Your organization likely already has success metrics in place; here are measures for creating significance metrics.

Define a significance vision.

You must first create a clearly defined vision for significance. A vision statement is a description of your organization’s desired future state. Your vision sets a target for how your company will operate when the desired state is fully acted upon. A sample significance vision might be, “Our company is the leader in creating social benefit in our county.”

Create significance metrics.

With your vision in place, set specific goals and standards that, when accomplished, will create observable traction toward increasing significance. Sample metrics might include volunteering 1,000 person-hours to three specific non-profit organizations, building two homes for Habitat for Humanity, or granting five $2,000 college scholarships to needy and deserving students.

Celebrate significance accomplishments.

Once metrics are in place, regularly celebrate both effort toward goals and goal accomplishment. Share success stories in both team meetings and in newsletters. Look at celebrating these accomplishments as a proactive campaign for significance.

Significance metrics must be held as equally valuable to success metrics. The most effective leaders hold all staff accountable for both.  

Edmonds blogs at