Happy end of February! I was busy watching the Olympics and could not write earlier ;-).
I love to watch the olympic competitions. You might have guessed that my favorite discipline is figure skating and if you had the chance to watch some of the competitions, I’m sure you agree that we were spoiled with great performances. There are even some sports that we only get to see during the Olympics: some are boring… others really exciting… or have strange names… or even seem impossible.
German TV is anything but generous when it is about figure skating, they prefer to show bobsleigh and ski jumping. Strangely enough, they were all of a sudden very motivated to show ice hockey, after their team won against Sweden and Canada, two great ice hockey nations! (I felt like hiding my passports for a few days…)
One thing will remain for sure from these two weeks: the NUMBERS, yes, the word of the month. You know the scores, the times, the rankings, the statistics. And you should know that I love NUMBERS. They help us to give structure, to make the abstract more concrete, to prioritize tasks, to determine the winners, to identify outliers, to give an orientation, etc. NUMBERS can express the results of an action or a decision.
On the other side, NUMBERS may not express the full impact of an action or a decision. So, while we may like them, NUMBERS have their limitations too. If I stay with my topic of the olympic games, not only the NUMBERS will remain… but also the wide range of emotions, the stories, the pictures, the dramas, the team spirit, etc. A bronze medal may be like gold for one athlete, while it can represent the loss of the gold medal for another one. So, a rank 3 does not mean the same thing even if the NUMBER 3 as such is neutral. A NUMBER is an information but not the whole truth…
What happens when an organisation is solely managed by NUMBERS with budgets to keep, sales targets to fulfill, costs to control? What happens when each and every employee feels just like a NUMBER? Their potential will remain unfolded, team spirit will be inexistent, the quality of their work will be neutral, their efforts will be limited… all elements that guarantee a rather neutral performance for the organisation. And here is my invitation to a reflexion: how much of a NUMBER do you feel at work (let’s say on a scale from 0 to 10 – 0 being “not feeling like a number at all” and 10 “feeling only like a number”)? How much of a NUMBER do you think that your employees feel from 0 to 10?
NUMBERS are useful but they need to be used with moderation, to be put in the right context and to be clearly explained in order to purposefully serve the management and the leadership of an organisation. It should not be the other way around: the organisation should not be of service to the NUMBERS!
Plato expressed this balance in a very nice way: “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on NUMBERS”. And your knowledge comprises your experiences, your gut feeling, your connections, your confidence and much more.
What was your favorite moment at the Olympics (if you watch them)? I was thrilled by the performance of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot in pairs figure skating. After a 4th place in the short program, they skated an amazing free program to win the gold. I don’t recall the exact score (!) but I will always remember their elegance, their complicity, their dedication, their vision, their hard work and their determination to step on the top of that podium. This is inspired leadership!