‘Soon man will count all his days, and then smaller segments of the day, and then smaller still—until the counting consumes him, and the wonder of the world he has been given is lost.’ Mitch Albom, The Timekeeper
Mitch Albom has hit on one of the missing ingredients of our modern pressurised existence. A sense of wonder. We seldom get or make the time to stop and enjoy. Counting and measuring is far more important to us.
I read Mitch Albom’s book, rather significantly, while preparing a workshop on performance management. Managing performance comprises a great deal of measurement. We measure success against our targets, of course, but we also want to know how we fared against others chasing the same targets. Because everyone knows that first is the only position that really matters.
Measurement is essential in business, of course. In manufacturing, mere seconds saved in one part of the process can translate into thousands of rands off the price of the product. In accounting, accurate records ensure efficient management of funds. And cash flow is one of the most important measures in any business.
However, in all the measuring, it is easy to forget the wonder. Wonder? In business? Has all this ‘soft skills’ training made Simply Communicate soft in the head? Actually, no.
Steve Jobs, for all his drive and lack of people-management skills, never forgot the wonder of innovation. He delighted in what he could show us, and delighted us as well.
Richard Branson has always been ready to throw out measures that restrict rather than empower, and in his latest book, The Virgin Way, he explains that he has thrown out the measurement of annual leave. With employees expected to be available 24/7, a company can no longer measure time spent on the job; how can one justify, therefore, trying to measure the time spent off the job?
It comes with a risk, but it will deliver more empowerment to employees than dozens of other initiatives might. Employees are expected to be up to date and organised before riding off into the sunset, of course, which presupposes that other measures are in place. An employee must know what their job is, for example, and what their deliverables are.
Brand Pretorius writes in his book, In the Driving Seat: Lessons Learned in Leadership, ‘I’m all for chasing the numbers in business, but … I found more satisfaction in the so-called “soft issues”.’
‘I believe that business is about much more than just the numbers. It is about making a difference to the lives of employees and the community. It’s about doing what is right for the benefit of all.’
Do the things we measure add to our employees’ sense of wonder, their enjoyment, their sense of achievement, or do they act as a burden, slowing employees down? Do employees become focussed on the measurement rather than what the measurement enables them to achieve? Indeed, are we so obsessed with measuring achievements that we forget to stop and applaud the achievement itself?
When a child comes home, excited at having come second in the race, do we ask them why they didn’t come first? If their report card says 80 percent do we ask them why they didn’t get 100?
Albom pleads with us to celebrate the moment. Take time to wonder. Applaud the achievement. Most people respond with enthusiasm to recognition and applause. We want more of it and we will do anything to get it. Give your employees and your children something they will want to experience again and again. Celebrate the moment; take time to wonder. And that goes for your own achievements, your own moments of celebration as well.
What have you stopped to celebrate recently? Tell us in the comments below.