Not Everything That Can Be Counted Counts

“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.”

Some people attribute this to Albert Einstein, and others say it came from William Bruce Cameron. No matter who said it first, they’re right…

In a world where data is king, it can be easy to get so locked in on the power of the numbers that we lose sight of what really matters. Some of the most important areas to track in our businesses are the most untrackable. They are squishy, can feel obscure, and are hard to apply to charts and graphs. At the same time, as leaders, we can feel it in our gut when they’re “on” or “off.” Here are three areas we’ve experienced that fit this description…

Are the members of our team in the right seats on the bus? As a company that uses the EOS Traction model, we’re constantly asking ourselves this question. There have been times in the past where we’ve asked our team to sit in multiple seats or cover an empty seat as a growing business. Sometimes we put them in the wrong seat, asking someone to do something that stretches their skills or definition of their “right fit.” As we’ve learned, that can be a temporary solution, but long term, we need to stay connected with our people and listen to them when they share their goals, frustrations, and what their seat on the bus looks like.

Have we created an environment that honors our employees outside of work? If there’s one thing we’ve all learned over the past two years, it’s that we all have lives beyond the office. Every day, there’s work to get done to keep our businesses growing and moving. At the same time, the individuals we work side by side with every day have stories that they’re writing outside of work. They’re raising kids, managing their health, exploring new hobbies, doing some things they love, and other things that just have to get done in life.

Do our teams know how much we appreciate them? Too often, the day-to-day grind gets the best of us, and we neglect saying “thank you.” The busyness of business hijacks our attention, and we forget to slow down and let people know how grateful we are for them. Even slowing down for just a minute to tell someone they did a good job, designed a beautiful piece, or delivered a great client experience can seem challenging. What’s more challenging, though, will be replacing that person when they leave because they didn’t feel seen or appreciated.

“Not everything that counts can be counted.”

Today, we’re in the middle of the Great Resignation, and a Harvard Business Review article from September 15, 2021, captured some numbers that we can count. Four million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignation rates are highest among mid-career employees. Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. Every day, we talk to business owners who are struggling to find talent for their businesses. This is real.

It makes me wonder if some of these things we can’t count are really the things we should be paying the most attention to. Maybe people are leaving because we sucked to work for, we didn’t lead them well, and the cultures we created are counting the wrong things. Along with all the data points we need to focus on in order to run our businesses, maybe we should be paying attention to some of the things above that we can’t “count” in traditional ways. Maybe it’s on us to create amazing organizations that make our people want to stay.

You’re either creating a culture where people want to come to work, or you’re not. Help them find their right seat on the bus. Honor them as people with lives outside of work. Let them know you’re thankful for them. Don’t let the things that are easy to count keep you from seeing what’s more challenging to count.

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