Tag Archives: People Management

Measurement and wonder – counting and celebrating


This is an article I posted on my business website, but I thought my readers here might enjoy it too – those of you who haven’t entirely given up on another Wondering Preacher post.)


‘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

Ians HourglassMitch 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.

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Out of work: A new venture


I handed in my notice this week.  I have done that a couple of times in my life, but this is different. I am not going to a new job; there is no pay cheque waiting; there is nothing out there but good intentions and interested people. While I’m taking early retirement, I’m not retiring, and, having received a salary every month for the past 40 years, that’s a rather scary prospect. 

I have spent the past few years thinking about my future and what I am going to do with myself until retirement age and beyond, and more important, who is likely to pay me to do it.  I have seven years before compulsory retirement age, but I have a mother alive and well at 84, and a father still working as a pharmacist in a local hospital at 86.  You will understand, therefore, that, however uncertain life may be, long-term planning is called for.

What I do know is that I do not want to run an organisation’s Human Resources Department for another seven years.  A training department, now that’s a different matter, but there are few of those opportunities around this area. 

I knew that training would have to be part of what I do; I knew also that writing should play a role, but exactly what I could offer to whom was elusive.  After a long time wondering, praying and generally feeling somewhat inadequate for anything, we finally have a plan.

Raymond Ackerman, of Pick ‘n Pay fame, wrote about four legs to a business table.  Perhaps I am not aiming high enough, but I have three “legs” on my model.  The first is training and development of people.  This will take various forms, including part-time lecturing, workshops and seminars, and individual coaching and mentoring.  The focus of the seminars and workshops will be management skills, so-called soft skills, writing, and other themes that may take my fancy (and that I can persuade enough people to pay for).  Some will be my own material while some will be in partnership with quality training and development specialists.

The second leg is writing.  Having spent 16 years working with journalists I know that I will not, in the short term, make a healthy living from writing (I am no J. K. Rowling).  But my love for writing came as a serendipitous discovery a couple of years ago, and I have been indulging myself (with your help, of course, Dear Reader) ever since. Any form of writing or editing will do, and a couple of possibilities have taken shape.

The third leg will be general consulting work in the field of people management.  There is a surprising oversupply of HR Consultants, from the highly qualified to the not so, in this small city, so I do not expect to do much here, but the other two “legs” may feed work into this area.

I am creating a website with its own blog called Simply Communicate where I hope to draw readers (and clients) to my wise words and helpful hints geared towards managers of people. Do pay a visit, but it will be a work in progress for a month or so. Although some themes are universal, the emphasis will be on the South African workplace, and managing people in the ever-changing landscape (some would call it a minefield) of this country’s labour legislation.  Personally I never complain about the legislation.  Its complexity (trying to bring order and certainty into the mess of human relations) and it’s employee-centred focus has helped provide me a good living for 16 years, and long may it continue.

With the internet, of course, writing is no longer restricted by geographic boundaries, so if you have any writing or editing to be done come 1 September 2012, do let me know, I shall have some time on my hands—not too much time, I hope.

I plan to continue this blog with its particular focus, so don’t go away.

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