This time of year is exciting for many of us in Texas. (Not just because of football.) The Monarch butterflies migrating from Canada typically stop off in the Lone Star State to feast on our abundant milkweed plants before they get to Mexico. I am a huge fan of organic gardening, and I always include nectar flowers and plenty of milkweed in my yard to attract and support the Monarchs. So when I hadn’t spotted any butterflies this year, I began to worry.
Like anxious parents waiting for their 16-year-old to get home with the car, I started thinking the worst. What if something happened to the butterflies? Did bad weather disrupt their journey? What if the population is so small that they don’t find the plants in my yard? Concern turned to disappointment when I read on a butterfly migration blog that these regal creatures had arrived in droves throughout other parts of Texas.
What if they already passed through? What if I was so busy that I missed the whole thing?
Each day I walked into the back yard numerous times to get a closer look at the vegetation, wondering if the butterflies were somehow camouflaged among the flowers and greenery.
Finally I was rewarded for my vigilant watch: a single Monarch appeared. Although she had a partially broken wing, she was still adept at finding the bright yellow and red flowers of the Mexican milkweed that blanketed my yard. In fact, the broken wing didn’t seem to slow her down at all from flying, perching, or eating. It was a joy to watch her float through the air so delicately and compete with the bees for the nectar. If I hadn’t been paying close attention, I probably wouldn’t even have seen her.
What is the business lesson here?
We can prepare and plan and implement strategies all we want. But if we’re not careful, we can become so engrossed in the hurry-up, get-it-done frame of mind that we miss seeing the success when it happens. We get so busy that it flies right by, and we don’t even notice.
Perhaps you are involved with so many large projects that you never really feel a sense of momentum or stop to acknowledge the progress you have made. The same thing happens if you are a manager. You invest time to develop your team members, to support their learning, to give them the right opportunities to grow and gain more skills and experience. You’re helping them work towards a goal. It’s a natural tendency to focus on where they need to go rather than to see how far they’ve come.
But here’s the thing to remember: success sometimes happens in fleeting, fluttering moments. If we aren’t paying attention, we may miss it.
One of the best parts about being a leadership coach is getting to witness the small, courageous steps that my clients take as they work to improve their leadership skills. Each step might not be monumental (or even particularly noticeable). However, if they keep taking those steps, the results can be dramatic. I’ve seen major transformations that started with microscopic shifts. While I’m trained to identify those small moments of success, my goal is always to help my clients identify them on their own. As they become more self-aware, they will learn to recognize each small accomplishment in a way that builds valuable momentum to continue their journeys.
If you’ve spent considerable time and energy to prepare yourself for a leadership position but feel like the results are nonexistent, you might be surprised if you take a closer look. Leadership success is not like a light switch that’s either on or off. It grows over time through incremental (sometimes tiny) achievements that slowly build. Take time to look for progress in yourself and in others. Find it. Celebrate it. Build on it. I think you’ll discover there’s great joy in watching the beauty of what happens next.
What’s your strategy to discover hidden signs of success before they fly by?
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