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Disparity in Personal and Organisational Definitions of Success


Managers across the UK believe there is a discrepancy between how individuals and their organisations judge success.

According to the results of surveys conducted by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), managers achieve personal success by making an impact at work and developing their colleagues, but think their organisations are more focussed on market leadership and profit margins.

Nearly half - 48% - of individuals claimed to judge success by the extent to which they develop their teams but felt that only 38% of organisations mark this as a priority. The CMI said this raises concerns not only in view of the growing recognition of skills shortages in the UK, but also for the lack of communication within organisations.

Just over one in four (28%) also believe that ‘achieving a flexible lifestyle’ is the mark of professional success but think only 6% of their employers concur with this. The perception of differing opinions comes against a backdrop of individuals resolving to spend more time with friends and family this year (38%) and planning to change jobs (21%).

Of 1,864 managers asked to identify the key factor that drives them to succeed, almost two-thirds (64%) spoke of having a ‘sense of purpose’ in their work and one in five (19%) referred to ‘making a difference to society’. Only 11% sought status amongst colleagues and less than 1 in 10 (8%) claimed that success should be judged by ‘public recognition’.

The research highlights a worryingly large gap between how individuals define success and how they believe their employees measure achievement with market share and long-term growth thought to be of higher priority than employee welfare. Only 13% of managers are concerned with ‘ensuring the organisation is market leader’ but 65% thought that their employers made this a priority. Similarly, just 16% of managers believe securing ‘sustainability’ is important, but thought that 51% of their organisations perceive this as a priority.

The findings also show that fewer than half (48%) believe they have actually achieved their true potential. However, it is clear that the UK’s managers are unhappy with this situation, with many taking action to ensure success. A third have planned to undertake development courses or further education during the next twelve months and 14% intend to improve their language skills to cope with increasing global business needs.

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said: “Success clearly means different things to different people, but the disparity between the aims and objectives of the individual and how they view their company’s priorities reveals a need for better internal communication.

“Managers should voice professional needs so their definition of success is known while the organisation needs to create a clear understanding of its corporate objectives to ensure employees and future employees feel an alignment to the corporate culture.”

* The Chartered Management Institute has freely downloadable resources to help individuals and organisations achieve success at


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