Success is an endurance sport

Endurance-ShackletonJack and Suzy Welch say there are three key qualities an executive MUST possess in order to succeed. They are:

- Authenticity
- Resiliency
- Anticipating what's next.

I'd add a fourth one: endurance. In my opinion, success is a marathon, not a sprint.

But, before I line up for the long-distance soliloquy, let's address the power couple's troika of triumph:

1.) Authenticity. Jack & Suzy (why not call them JaZy?) believe authentic executives rise to the top because they hold fast to their core values (despite what the corporate culture may say to the contrary).  That's an interesting observation, considering the rough-and-tumble culture Welch himself created as CEO of GE. But, it rings true.  I failed miserably as president of Brouillard Communications (a now defunct division of J. Walter Thompson) because I tried to be what the CEO (and the culture) wanted me to be: autocratic, conservative and political.

I've succeeded at Peppercomm because Ed and I have created a culture that mirrors our self-deprecating, work hard, play hard personalities. So, I am who I am and I thrive as a result.

2.) Resiliency. After each, and every, setback I've managed to pick myself up, dust myself off and charge right back into the fray. Resiliency cannot be underestimated. Success is an ephemeral lover. You can be riding high in May only to find yourself shot down in September. Clients and people come and go. The key to success is never getting too high or too low, and treating wins and losses with the same even-keeled demeanor.

3.) What's next. As far as possessing a 'sixth sense for business' as Team Welch refers to it, I've always trusted my gut to tell me what might work in the business world. That's why I've pioneered the use of stand-up comedy as a cultural game changer. And, my firm was rewarded by just being named NYC's top workplace by Crain's New York Business. Our other top people have also had the ability to 'see around corners' as Jack and Suzy put it:

- Jackie Kolek organized our first digital/social media offering
- Maggie O'Neill created our events group from scratch
- Ann Barlow pioneered our Green and sustainability offerings
- And, Ed's created one of the industry’s best measurement systems, called Business Outcomes.

Jackie, Maggie, Ann and Ed also possess huge reservoirs of endurance. They've weathered every storm and grown stronger as a result.

Since founding Peppercomm in 1995, I've seen countless supernova, A-type PR personalities come and go. Many of these superstars were named PR professional of the year, adorned the cover of one of our trade journals or even rose to the ranks of Fortune's Most Powerful women. And, then these very same individuals faded into oblivion. The same holds true for agencies. Most of the dotcom darlings are long gone, having either gone Chapter 11 or been swallowed up by a holding company.

So, yes, Jack and Suzy, one does need to be authentic, resilient and prescient. But, without endurance, the hot shot executive of the here and now will only be remembered (if he's remembered at all) as yesterday's one hit wonder.

What about you? What qualities do you think are critical to success?

6 thoughts on “Success is an endurance sport

  1. Besides endurance and the ability to be self-deprecating, I’d have to go with JaZy’s “authenticity.”
    Prospects, clients, reporters, producers, and colleagues will get behind you when they know you’re able to be “real.”

  2. Thanks Lunch. Agreed. It’s only matter of time before fakirs are outed. Authenticity and vulnerability are key ingredients of success.

  3. Steve, another riveting piece (ha-ha). Your resiliency paragraph is spot on.

    “The key to success is never getting too high or too low, and treating wins and losses with the same even-keeled demeanor.”

    I especially like that above excerpt.
    I’ve only just recently came into my own and “figured it out” since leaving pcom as a summer intern 3 years ago.
    However, you know the Male adult brain does not reach full maturity till the ripe age of 25 (maybe even later for some) (ha-ha).
    But of course, I still have a long way to go as we all do…
    Eric Schlau

  4. Thanks for the nice note, Eric. Trust me, my rapidly-aging brain is still adjusting to the highs and lows of PR agency life.