The Problem with Trying to Help Employees Succeed

shadow-men-celebrate“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” —Bruce Lee


By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


To be successful you must first define what success looks like. Herein lies the problem; success looks different to everyone. So, as a leader, it becomes difficult to help individuals in your organization succeed. What you think of as success may not mean anything to them. And, the way they define success may make no sense to you. The dilemma is that there is no right or wrong way to define success. We know that investing in employees, taking a personal interest in them, and helping them to grow and succeed is one of the most important roles that a leader plays. So, what do we do about the problem of trying to help employees succeed?

Respect the differences

Each individual must find their own definition of success. What does it really look like? Once success is defined, it sets up the expectations that go along with achieving it. As a leader, you can’t put your own expectations of success on those who work with you. You must help them define their own expectations and then learn to respect the differences in what it means to succeed.

Give them the resources

Once we know what success looks like, we need to formulate a plan for getting from here to there. As a leader, it is your responsibility to provide the resources that your people need achieve success. This not only requires the resources to succeed, but also to fail on occasion. Failure will always be a stepping stone on the road to success and, as a leader, you need to offer the support and resources that will allow your employees to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back on the track to success.

Become their cheerleader

One of the biggest factors in the ability for one to succeed is to be surrounded by others who are supportive, positive motivators. Be a cheerleader for your employees. Provide them with a positive, supportive, and trusting environment where they can pursue their goals. Help them to gain confidence, empower them, and communicate with them openly and often. Provide them with opportunities that will help them grow towards their definition of success.

Celebrate small successes

Celebrate small successes based on what success looks like to them. Help employees to identify what success looks like for them at every step of the journey. Taking that first real step is a small success. Keeping focused and reaching a milestone is a small success. And, reaching the finish line is a, not so small, success.

Acknowledge the contribution

While they are on the road to their own success, acknowledge the contribution that their progress is making to the organization. Has their accountability improved? Are they better team members? Are they setting a good example for others to follow? Has their productivity and/or quality improved? Keep your eyes open for positive changes that are taking place, and then take the time to acknowledge the contribution that your employees are making to that change.

As a leader, the most important things you can do to help your employees succeed is to help them visualize and define what success means to them. Then, respect the differences, give them the necessary resources, become their cheerleader, help them recognize and celebrate the small successes, and acknowledge the contributions they are making. Real success is not about duplicating someone else’s version of success. It’s about defining your own goals, your own road, and your own passion. Don’t set employees up to fail by projecting your expectations of success on them. Be the support that helps employees identify their own vision of success, their own expectations, and the ability to live up to them and reach their goals.




© 2015 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


2 thoughts on “The Problem with Trying to Help Employees Succeed”

  1. You have such clear insight into a disillusioning problem affecting employee and leader alike, or mentor and mentor, or friends trying to help each other succeed. Success, even if defined by the same components, are subjective and have varying levels. Money? How much? – Followers? How many? – Author? Of what type of publication? – Business owner? How many employees? How many clients?

    You’ve described the ideal role of the leader in guiding others to success. Help them envision success, identify what they want, provide resources, by their advisor, coach, and cheerleader. Let them gauge their progress and decide when they’re truly satisfied.

    1. I love your explanation, Jane. Your insights are always right on target! Thank you for sharing them.

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