I was enjoying a mentoring conversation with a client (let’s call her Mary) recently – Mary told me that her partner thought it was important that I know (as her mentor) that she never finishes anything.

Some words yell at me – words like “never” and “anything”– both such BIG words – global words or statements like this play havoc with the mind (but that’s another story!).

I asked Mary what she thought – did she agree with that statement?  Mary was sure she finished projects and eventually with lots of prodding could come up with quite a few examples.

But that aside – it was clear that Mary had not clarified what “finished” looked like with her partner or with herself for that matter.

How can we congratulate ourselves on completing something successfully, if we don’t know what completed looks like or what success is?  How can we expect to be congratulated by others when they have different perspectives.

Consider this scenario which will be very familiar to some of us:

Jill asked her son to tidy his bedroom.  He made the bed and was surprised when reprimanded for not doing what he was told.  He had finished tidying his room according to his understanding of what finished looked like and he had made the bed just like he had been shown – so he also felt like he had done a good job – success was his.

On the other hand, Mum expected to be able to see the floor, dirty clothes in the laundry, magazines, sports gear etc on the shelves.

These two very different definitions of finished caused unnecessary angst and confusion.  Who has a checklist for bedroom cleaning?

The same applies in a business environment – how often do you see a bewildered look on the face of a team member who clearly thinks he has successfully completed a task only to be chastised or asked to go back and finish it?

As a leader and manager, always be clear on what ”finished” looks like – and also be clear on what a successful outcome means.  Clarify the expected standards, the steps, the time frames, the outcomes, the roles with the team – and check for understanding.

When it’s your project – something you have undertaken to do – it is just as important to write down what finished means, what a successful outcome looks like and why, why should you take this project through to the end.  And don’t forget to make sure your stakeholders know exactly what, finished successfully, means to you.

It sounds like a simple concept and it is.  However, I have found that too often these simple concepts are overlooked because we assume we are all on the same page.  Never assume.


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you have a read of What is Success?  Do you feel Successful?

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