Tips to Inspire Employees: Define What Success Looks Like and How to Get There


All small businesses start with a dream.

What would it be like to have my own business? I could chart my own course, sell products and services that Ibelieve in, and hire the people I want to hire. I could control my own destiny.

As a small business grows, however, it gets harder and harder to communicate what’s important and what’s expected from employees. It gets more difficult to follow-up. At some point, you need employees to just know and do the right things. Short of a cool sci-fi way of doing this, how does this happen?

Pay Now or Pay Later

The key is clarifying what success looks like with your team. Investing the time now to define and communicate what success looks like and how to get there with your employees will save you time and grief later. Without clear expectations from you, inevitably employees will perform to their expectations.

It’s as Easy as 1-2-3

Defining what success looks like is actually an important part of strategic planning, but don’t let that scare you. Follow these steps for your whole business or just a component, and you’ll discover new hooks for aligning your employees with your vision.

  1. Start with the end in mind. Pick a time horizon….3 years, 5 years, or 10 years. Describe what success looks and feels like from as many perspectives as possible to paint a vivid picture of the future state. What revenue targets have you hit? What do people think and know about your business? How do employees feel working for you? Be specific.
  1. Break it down. Once you define what success looks like for the business, create distinct categories such as Customer Experience or Employee Engagement, and further break down what success looks like for those categories. For example, what does success look like for an Optimal Customer Experience? How are your employees “righting the wrongs?”
  1. Connect the dots for employees. If you include employee input to these definitions of success, you’re ahead of the game by making your vision their vision too. Don’t underestimate the need to make explicit connections between what employees do every day and how that links to the likelihood of achieving success as you’ve defined it.

There is no better time to begin defining what success looks like for your business. It will inspire you. It will inspire your employees. You will likely resolve a few obstacles in the process. And it might even remind you why you started the business in the first place.

Kristine Rand Lonsway is owner and executive coach for Lonsway Consulting ( and a member of the   La Grange Business Association’s Education Committee.