Are talent and ambition enough to succeed?

A client – let’s call him Phil – once said this to me: ‘I don’t understand it. I’m ambitious, I work hard, I get great results for the business and I give this job my all – and yet, I just don’t seem to progress. My boss says I can be a bit abrasive sometimes but why does that matter, if I’m getting the job done?’

‘Do you think it does matter?’ I asked him.

‘I guess it must do,’ he sighed. ‘I know, I know: you’re going to ask me why it matters. I guess that unless I work alone, hard work and skills aren’t enough: I need to be able to work with others.’

Success is about more than our skills, our ambition, our talents and our hard work.

As a coach, I have come across other clients who are excellent at their jobs and hugely committed to their success who somewhere along the way have lost sight of the value of working relationships. We’re not talking about ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’: we’re talking about understanding the value of colleagues and their contribution, about building successful alliances, about giving and receiving respect and communicating effectively. A successful team – however small or temporary that team is – is more than the sum of its parts so our success as individuals can depend on our success as a team.

Phil and I spent some time exploring this issue. I asked him to give me a couple of examples of colleagues who he felt were good at creating these strong relationships as well as being great at their jobs. We talked about what he noticed about their behaviour. We talked about what he noticed about his own behaviour, whether he’d like to change it and what the impact would be if he did so. It boils down to this:

  • In terms of working relationships, how would you like to behave?
  • What would the impact of this behaviour be on others?
  • What would the impact of this behaviour be on you?
  • What are the first steps towards this behaviour?

For Phil, this wasn’t a quick fix: it’s a work in progress and it’s been challenging at times. He’s worked hard to ensure this behaviour is authentic and sustained but the last time we spoke, he was pleased to be able to report that his boss had commented on Phil’s improved relationships.

Today’s pebble for your contemplation: would it be beneficial for you to invest in improving your relationships?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?


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