What value do you bring to your role? What is the value of your contribution? Is the value you bring the value that is being measured?
The things we tend to measure, like sales, hours, fees billed and costs saved, are all important, but they are not the whole picture, they are not the whole of us.
We measure things that are easy to count. We measure economic efficiency and economic effectiveness. We appoint Finance teams to be the guardians of the data that is captured so that data can be detained in rows of cells in spreadsheet prisons. Data marshalled, projected and presented back to us as strategy; but the question in my mind is whether we are in control of the data, or whether the data is controlling us?
It all feels a little soulless and devoid of our humanity.
What if we could also measure gentleness and authenticity and wisdom? What if the numbers only counted if they came with feelings that counted too? Would we then have new role models in our businesses? People we felt inspired to emulate who were not just the rainmakers, but who made the sun shine too.
Businesses are people. If the people leave or if they cannot thrive, businesses fail. Isn’t it a little odd therefore that the things we value about people (and should therefore value about business) are things we fail to count?
It will be easy to read this and say “yes, but”, after all surely someone has to make the cold hard cash? A loss made pleasantly is still a loss (although I will happily argue that a loss made harshly is worse). My challenge however is not that we have got it all wrong, just that we might not have got it all right.
I wonder if have we fallen into the trap of choosing the easy things to count and then created a narrative to support counting those things? Isn’t that the very embodiment of unconscious bias? What if we were to pause and count what truly matters to us?
What if we counted the integrity of our boards?
What if we valued humility, creativity and diversity in our leaders?
What if kindness and sales became a combined metric?
What if expediency cost people their bonuses?
If we were to measure the impact of our decisions on the families of our employees, would there be a greater incentive to look after our people, and for our people to stay with us?
If contracts with suppliers were more balanced, fair and shared the burden of risk, would we have better outcomes than contracts which highlight the punishments for what has not happened and may never happen?
A bullying ego is a hungry mouth to feed. Perhaps the bullies will leave if they are paid less because of how they behave and not more for the business they bring in?
I wonder as well if our colleagues would be an even more effective team if they absolutely knew in their hearts that the profits we make are the result of caring deeply about the concerns of our customers and less about random targets that a few executives created to suit their competitive impulses?
It may be harder to count joy and the difference we make through thoughtfulness, but counting another soulless binary metric seems a very poor excuse not to try.
We are all so much more than EBITDA. The humanity of our work, and the way we work, is a story that should also be collated, reported and celebrated.