Legal Department metrics? I am not that bothered.

Count what you like, present it how you like, extrapolate it all you like, the things we count have largely been chosen because we can at least count them. This is like measuring the dimensions of a canvass because we do not have the vocabulary to describe the picture.

The difference we make does not come with an easy to see, easy to explain, tick in the box. It is a shame, but true, so we end up counting stuff that doesn’t really matter, pretending it does and making everyone around us feel just a little bit complicit in the charade of the empirical’ s new clothes.

I think I was eleven years old, and I had just started secondary school, when I asked my maths teacher “if zero means nothing, why is it such an important part of maths?”. A wonderful conversation followed about maths and value. If something cannot be counted and yet still has value in a subject like maths, why are we so hung up on counting things when our subject is about judgement, doing the right thing and the law? Surely, ours is a story to tell, not a number to crunch.

Let’s not count pointless things anymore. I really do not care if you have a dashboard of many colours. The things I care about are the things we find almost impossible to count. Do people listen to you? Are you and your colleagues kind? Do you have influence when it matters? Is it safe to speak up? Have you understood the ethicality of your purpose? Does your business care that you have the access and the resources you need to thrive?

The right answer is rarely just a number that we can count, but it is about how we make other people feel, and how they make us feel. What is better for you (a) an acceptable answer in the context of an outstanding relationship, or (b) an outstanding answer in the context of an acceptable relationship? And where would you prefer to work given that choice?

Throw away your metrics. They are an administrative distraction that you have cobbled together to make you feel more connected to the sales geeks and finance wonks who live (or die) by what they can count. My advice is that you should absolutely care about their numbers as if they were your own; relish getting to know their meaning and their effect. However, do not invent your own numbers and then pretend they matter to you just as much. If you do, you risk becoming the needy kid who wants to be loved for putting colour on your spreadsheets and imagining you now manage risk more effectively as a result.

Throw away your metrics and tell your story. You are the contribution that cannot be easily counted, but which allows everyone else to do what they must do. Some days you are the invisible “zero”, but without you, the company will fail as surely as the mathematical formula will also not work.

Throw away your metrics and tell your story, because we all know that one courageous and kind intervention may transform the life of a colleague or a client. And we all know that this will count far more than all the contracts you have ever templated and that no one ever reads.

Your story is facilitate and prevent; it is to be involved and to be independent; it is to love and to criticise; it is a world of complex context, interdependent relationships, momentary influence and myriad behaviours. Your story is not a number. Your job is not to count, but to be counted.

Take care. Paul xx