Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher
Cultivating Healthy Ambition
Ambition is an essential element to an organization and individual. Ambition begins with understanding the desires, aspirations, and goals you have for yourself and your team. What exactly are your desired outcomes for yourself and those of your team?
Knowing and understanding how far to reach is key to harnessing healthy ambition. Setting goals that require just the right level of difficulty push and struggle helps ensure to reach beyond your current abilities. Suppose the challenge is too great; a risk of giving up or becoming discouraged when target goals fall short happens. If the challenge isn’t significant enough, a risk of disconnecting, not being engaged, and never reaching the levels of total performance is accomplished.
I worked with a young ambitious leader who was very talented. His desire to accomplish was greater than the skill levels of himself and his team. They pushed full steam ahead, but lacked the ability to sustain all of the components of their plans. Piles of data was collected, but being able to utilize it wisely with a targeted purpose was missing. They could accomplish some small wins, but the frustration levels grew with trying to maintain the action plans. Creating the action plans was difficult to establish because the data seemed to become outdated by the time they reviewed it together. It became overwhelming with the stacks of data collected.
There is more to accomplish than performance with ambition. We need to think about growth, achievement, sustainable and solution-focused ambitions. Each of these requires more in-depth conversations we can continue in future blog posts. We need a balance for ambition to find the formula for success. In the meantime, ponder these questions with your purpose of performance:
Questions for Focus
- What are our current performance goals?
- What goals can you reach with your efforts?
- What goals can you help guide your team in accomplishing?
- How can the efforts of “all” work together to accomplish the goals?
- Do the goals need to be prioritized?
- Have you assigned timelines, responsibilities, tasks, or other ways to accomplish them?
- What do I wish was different today?
- What frustrates me the most?
- Have I asked the team any of these questions?
- Do I listen to the team, data and information?
When we work only on performance ambition, our teams may look to us in different ways. If our goals seem unattainable, they will look at us as being “unrealistic.” Maybe you have set too many or too high of goals. The team believes you are setting them up for failure.
What if you do not take any risks and have too few of goals? The team thinks you do not believe in them, you are not a risk-taker and you have low expectations.
We do not want to lose our sense of purpose. Our team must believe in the goals, values, and beliefs we establish. It is essential to keep a check on the level of ambition we have and to maintain high sustainable energy to develop the accomplishments we want to achieve.