In today’s business world, under the huge financial pressures, the conversation of almost everything too often is focused on cost. While efficiency and cost are important, they often create a myopic focus that is shortsighted, moral killing, and flawed. When you look at almost all of the burnout discussions, they are focused only on the load. How much does a person work (hours, days, etc.)? How much pressure is a person under? How many people or dollars (euros, pounds, swiss francs, rands, etc.) are they responsible for? How many projects do they have going? While these things once again are important, they are missing a key focus - impact.
A great friend of mine, and a real leader in the fire service, Chief Jeff Case, is changing the discussion in the fire service. Rather than talking about fire loss, he is framing the discussion around the property and lives saved. Think about this. A warehouse catches on fire and several units of highly trained, highly fit, and high performing firefighters precisely and professionally apply their skills. The fire gets stopped in one corner of the warehouse and within 30 minutes all of the businesses around this burned building are back in business. Rather than saying this fire caused $250,000.00 in damage, Jeff (along with the help of Arizona State University) is able to say that the benefit of this response was $1.5 million. This includes the sales the saved business will make, the sales tax the city will collect, and the inventory that was not damaged and therefore can be sold. It even includes the dangerous exposure to unhealthy chemicals that was prevented and much more. In this light, the discussion is about impact rather than cost. In fact, think about the difference well-trained and highly skilled firefighters (Sustainable High Performers) can make verses the opposite. In this framing, the cost of training is well worth the impact it makes.
Recently, I was having dinner with the non-commissioned leader of one of the most elite counter terrorism groups in the US Military. We were talking about the incredible personal sacrifices these men make and how he deals with being away from home, being in such uncomfortable places and situations, dealing with personal loss, and so often being at such high risk. He naturally and quickly reframed the discussion to the benefit their efforts make. When you stop one terrorist event, when you allow one young girl to get an education, when you rescue just one captured citizen, you don’t feel like you’ve sacrificed. Instead, you feel like you had an impact, like you made a difference, like what you do and who you are matters.
In today’s money focused and often negative focused world, we too often lose track of the great feeling of exceeding expectations, of going the extra mile, of mentoring a young new hire, or of following through just because you said you would rather than focusing on a bonus for doing a little extra. We are told over and over that the key to success is learning to say “no” to everyone because you have to think in terms of the cost (time, effort, energy, etc.). At Tignum we think the biggest benefit of Sustainable High Performance is the impact you create. You don’t just build up energy for yourself but instead you work hard to give energy to others. We don’t talk about the burnout we prevented but instead focus on the impact you are making. We don’t look backwards at the engagement percentages we may have improved but instead look forward at the leading performance indicators (focus, giving energy, creativity, etc.) and the impact a leader can make going forward. In fact, we have found that if you really want to stop burnout, energize a culture, improve talent retention, and attract the best talent, you invest in Sustainable High Performance and you focus on the impact you make.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
by Scott Peltin
Founder // Chief Performance Officer