How do you measure long-term success? 

By this, I mean, how do we manage our hopes and expectations until long-term success can be measured?


It’s April, and I’m sitting in my sunny living room, but I have a wool sweater on, hot tea is next to me, and I’ll definitely want something warm for lunch. The sun is strong through the window, but the outside temperatures bob around 49 degrees F. Some greens peek up from the ground, but the trees are bare. The sidewalks are clear of snow for good walking, but you had better bring an extra layer and a hat just in case of icy gusts.

In New England, we say, “April is the cruelest month.” 


New England April is a balance between what actually is (Spring is beating its invisible drum) and what we see immediate evidence of (Winter will never be shaken off). 

It reminds me of the balance I see and feel in my professional life and with my clients: the balance between what actually is (missions and visions are being carried out) and what we see immediate evidence of (the numbers aren’t yet growing).

One example of this balance is with my book. According to Amazon, the immediate evidence says my book is ranked #2,670,507. Two million out of how many? What does this even mean? Not even in the top million? Should I understand this number to be a mark of failure? 


On the other hand, my book is actually making an impact on individuals the way I hoped it would. 

People have told me they have started collecting their life stories to share with others.
Others say the book feels like it was written just for them at this moment in their leadership growth.
Some confess (quietly) to how they are (perhaps) considering what it means to be a main character in their own lives, then (maybe) speak up.
I’m touched and inspired by their exploration of their speakership. 

This was my intention: the book to be an invitation to explore readers’ next best step in developing a voice, leadership, and speaking. 


I know I’m not alone in this tricky balance point between immediate evidence and actual growth.

A few weeks ago, I helped team members with their presentations for the all-hands monthly meeting. One person told the story of a long-term client relationship. At the start of the project and many times along the way, the immediate evidence looked discouraging. 

Her slides first showed pictures of tiny seedlings. She shared how the project started with the client committing to only a tiny fraction of what her team was capable of. Her team took on the challenge, seeing the potential in this seedling to grow into something large and valuable for everyone. 

She talked about how her team sat at this uncomfortable balance point between immediate evidence and actual progress. Her team stuck together and was encouraged along the way by leadership. Next to the image of the seedlings, she showed a slide of giant redwoods, so big a car could drive through them. 

In the weeks after her presentation, leadership and other teams kept referring to her work as an example of how they wanted to engage in the world: building toward long-term growth and deep trusting relationships even when the immediate evidence at the start of the project looked too small to be valuable. 


Do you see the key here? They bridged the gap between the short-term appearance of failure and long-term measurable success by staying connected and supportive of each other. 


Our brains love the dopamine hit of hitting our numbers, seeing immediate results, and evidence of progress right now. Those short-term successes can feel like a drug we constantly need more of. We can easily slip into a pattern of chasing short-term wins to rack up the points on the scoreboard. 

The key to growing long-term projects, building trusting relationships, and reaching far-away outcomes is to give our brain a reward in another way: oxytocin and serotonin. Our brains love the feeling of comfort, pride, satisfaction, and safety from these two chemicals, but the trick is we can’t produce them on our own. We need others to get there. These are the relational brain chemicals. We feel surges of oxytocin and serotonin from communal experiences like hugs, celebrations, and words of encouragement.


My seedling-to-redwood client wasn’t alone in her wait for growth and measurable progress. She had a team that supported each other and leadership who held the same values. They strive to work with respect, humility, integrity, excellence, and commitment to everyone involved. They publicly speak about these values and share stories, examples, and case studies of their values in practice.

Of course, they aren’t perfect, and there are always rocky bumps in the road, but this team reached their redwood by encouraging each other through the path towards measurable long-term success.


Back in New England, through this immediate cruel April, this is how we get through as well. I have found relief in spontaneous dinners with neighbors of whatever-is-in-the-fridge, tea with friends, and group exercise classes. These are essential, precious, and valued by everyone. The seasons will actually change, and warmth will be here soon.


While you are leading your own long-term projects, where can you look for connection and support? 


Who around you needs your speakership of encouraging words, clear vision, or support to endure their cruel April?

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Margaret Watts Romney

Margaret Watts Romney is a presenter, teacher, and group synergy builder who has been teaching, speaking, stumbling, shaking on the stage, navigating communication blocks, and discovering better ways for her clients to lead for over 20 years.

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