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Stoicism, archery, and popping champagne; rewarding behaviour vs outcomes.


Think of the last time your organisation celebrated something. Did you pop the champagne because the ‘arrow hit the target’, or was it because of exceptional shooting?


Antipater used archery to explain the stoic model for living well; concentrate only on the things we can control. 'What matters is shooting well, not whether the arrow hits the target or not.' We can learn much from this simply analogy; not only about living well, but about bringing consistent success to our organisations.

The world’s best teams have a strong culture which is aligned with purpose. This culture drives behaviour; behaviour which has been designed to support the values of the organisation. Sometimes, arrows will hit the target, and sometimes not. But, if focus and effort is applied to shooting well, success will come over the long term.


So what do we do when the big win happens? Do we not celebrate?

Of course we do; the big wins are tangible signs of achievement. But we as leaders must ensure we are just as ruthless in our analysis of the shot that hit the target as we are with the analysis of those that missed.


We may find our win was due to a workaholic micromanager whose individual efforts are hiding a team of dismally unhappy and soon-to-depart employees.


We may find that luck played a large part in the win, and that our processes would have brought us failure on most other days.


Or we may find that this win came at a large and unsustainable cost.

If we didn’t shoot well; if our win was due to factors OUTSIDE our organisation’s control, we must temper our celebration. We are here to achieve mastery in shooting, not to hope fate walks with us on a particular day. As leaders, we must be creative and find ways to reward behaviour that will bring us long term success; we must pop the champagne with as much vigour on these occasions.


If we, like the archer, turn the focus of our organisation inwards; if we humbly seek out improvement in every facet of our operation, the results will follow.

If we shoot well, over time we will hit the target more often.

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