Everyone likes a winner. In sports, the teams that consistently win will enjoy a more loyal fan base. Last year’s 1-11 team that finishes 3-9 this year has enjoyed a 200% increase in their wins, yet their fan base is probably no better. Progress is good because it gets you closer to winning, but progress by itself is not winning. Winning is winning. The 3-9 team is still a losing team.
In business, the same applies. Clients, Wall Street, and top talent all gravitate to winning teams. The team that consistently loses but is making progress is still a losing team. That team is still struggling to attract clients, investors, and talent.
Yet how many times do we confuse ourselves by patting ourselves on the back for the simple act of improvement? Do you really think your competition is standing still? Do you really think that clients are satisfied simply with progress? How satisfied is the investor who sees a return below the market?
Said another way: don’t celebrate failure by disguising it as progress.
The next time you are setting goals or evaluating performance, look at whether your team is winning or not. Progress against historical performance is interesting, but what is really important is progress against your win plan and even better is your progress against your competition. You do have a win plan, right? How are you doing? Are you winning?