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Management Acceleration: On Perseverance

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In this article, author Dan Coughlin discusses the critical importance of perseverance in managerial jobs. By laying out the sources of perseverance and explaining how to tap into those sources, he provides some helpful career advice for anyone whose job it is to manage others.

Since I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember studying successful people, both the famous and not-so-famous, I’m often asked what the most important characteristic is for long-term success. My answer applies as much to managers as it does to musicians, scientists, teachers, and entrepreneurs: the most important factor is perseverance. And now for some explanation…

Perseverance is more important than skills, leads, connections, experience, income, past successes, and reputation. My reasoning is, as always, very simple. If you persevere as a manager, you will strengthen your skills, you will gain leads for great customers and great employees, you will develop relationships with people who will connect you to opportunities, you will gain experience from both failures and successes, you will increase your income, you will gain some success that you can build momentum upon, and you will enhance your reputation. However, if you consistently give up, you won’t gain any of those benefits.

Perseverance is the one reliable mechanism for converting effort into gold. I’ve met dozens of people who have come to me all excited about some career idea only to tell me within six months all the reasons why they gave up. Then they move to the next idea and the next idea and… They gain zero momentum, they damage their self-esteem, and they hurt their reputation.

As Steve Martin wrote in his magnificent book, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, “Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.”

The Foundation of Perseverance

Every manager is in the relationship business. A manager is a person who converts human, financial, and material resources into results. The manager never converts results directly and solely through his or her own efforts. Consequently, integrity and honesty are at the foundation of successful perseverance for managers. No matter how much you hang in there, if other people can’t trust you, then you’re going nowhere. Perseverance is the key to long-term success, but only so long as it rests on a foundation of honesty, which means telling the truth, and integrity, which means doing what you think is the right thing to do in every situation.

The Sources of Perseverance

How does a manager persevere through good times and bad, through economic upturns and downturns, and through good and bad bosses, customers, and employees?


The first source of perseverance is self-confidence. Self-confidence is the degree to which a person believes he or she is going to succeed in an upcoming situation. If you believe you’re going to succeed, you’re much more likely to keep pressing forward. If you believe you’re not going to succeed, you’re much more likely to give up.

Self-confidence is strengthened by recalling past success stories. Take the five minutes required to answer these five questions. Write down your answers, and think about what you’ve written down.

The Process for Recalling a Past Success Story
  1. What was my goal?
  2. What were the obstacles I had to overcome?
  3. How did I persevere?
  4. What did it feel like when I achieved the goal?
  5. What lessons did I learn and how can I use those lessons in the situation I’m facing today as a manager?

Enthusiasm is the natural energy a person has when he or she is excited about an upcoming event. How does a person gain and maintain enthusiasm? Enthusiasm is absolutely critical for sustaining perseverance. Here’s the process…

The Process for Maintaining Enthusiasm
  1. Clarify your purpose for doing the work you do.
  2. Every single day focus on fulfilling that purpose.
That’s it. That’s the whole process for maintaining enthusiasm. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are still at it even though key members of the group are turning 65. How do they do it? They love entertaining people. Yes, they make a lot of money, but if it was just the money driving them, they would have burned out a long time ago. That purpose of entertaining people drives them, it fuels them, it creates enthusiasm, and it helps them to persevere.

What is your purpose at work? Either find a purpose or find a different job. You have to have a clear purpose in order to maintain enthusiasm and to persevere. Clarify that purpose, and then focus on fulfilling it every day.

About the Author

Visit Dan at Dan Coughlin is a business keynote speaker, management consultant, and author of Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum. He has been quoted in USA Today, the New York Times, and Investor’s Business Daily. Dan’s clients include Coca-Cola, Toyota, Boeing, Marriott, McDonald’s, AT&T, the American Bar Association, and the St. Louis Cardinals. He speaks on entrepreneurial habits, quality, leadership, branding, sales, and innovation.
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 Dan Coughlin  explanations  success  reputation  entrepreneurs  customers  integrity  Steve Martin  Born Standing Up  studying

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