I remember every year that I stood in the doorway at my grandma’s house so she could place a ruler on top of my head and draw a line on the wall with my name and the date next to it. I loved seeing it go up every year. I loved the day my line went above my older brother’s line, and the day I surpassed my father’s. Growing was easy. It was like an accomplishment that I did absolutely nothing to achieve, yet still completely owned it and felt great about it.
But, growth is a funny thing. When we were young, it was fun and it just happened on its own. And, we loved it. We were just “being” human. Now that we’re older, and we aren’t getting taller, growth takes on a new meaning. It takes understanding our shortcomings. It takes focus, rational thought and clarity around what matters most: our goals, priorities and all the complexities that make us human. Instead of just “being,” we become human “doings.” Now, growth takes work, which fits perfectly into the next stage our story—our professional life.
Living in a Capitalistic economy, our worth is now measured by our productivity. How much can we get done in a day? How effective are we? How is our career going? Thus, growth becomes a measurement and a function of our ability to get the job done—and, sadly, our professional lives become our identity.
When it comes to a company or corporate environment, this dynamic is amplified on a systemic level. It’s even more difficult and more complex. It’s not to say that companies are the evil empire—not at all—but it is to say that companies cannot ignore their humanness. And since companies, at their core, are just collections of individuals who now carry the same flag with the same logo on it, it means that people cannot ignore their humanness.
The CEO is a person. The VP of Corporate Culture is a person. The person sitting in the adjoining cubicle is a person. The problem is that we have all become human doings. And, since we have now all equated professional growth to personal growth, we put systems in place that measure the wrong thing—business goals. We fall back into grandma’s doorway and look first to those things that are easiest to measure and align with our false identity: revenues, profits, ROI, market share and anything else we can put on a spreadsheet.
Of course, these measurements are important, but they can’t be all we measure or track because they don’t give us accurate readings of the full picture and don’t measure what matters most.
This is where it gets tricky because we have to look in the mirror and wrestle with getting back to being human. Down to a cellular level, we are all looking for the same thing. We want purpose, significance, and to be valued. We want to love and be loved, contribute, and deeply hope to make the world a better place. We want to find a new way to grow. A new way to find meaning. To be better than we were the day before—better friends, better fathers, better mothers, and better members of our communities.
However, this type of growth takes work. It takes asking ourselves the tough questions. It takes making changes that are not easy to make and realizing how little time we spend on the things that we say are most important to us: friends, family, health and relationships. We know that our Life-Value, or Life-ROI, is more important than the ROI of the company for which we work. We know that our life review is more important than our annual job review. It’s time to start growing in the areas of our humanness, and then measuring the right things.
But, isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? Isn’t this what we all want on a bigger level? What if our world was full of people who truly understood why they matter—to themselves, their friends, their family, their community and, yes, their company? What if we cherished the fact that the flag with the logo on it is not what connects us and not our identity? What if we embraced and promoted personal growth, value and understanding, and truly made it a part of every aspect of life?
For starters, the world would be a better place. Not a bad start. But, isn’t it fair to consider that a company of enthusiastic, motivated, realized, purpose-filled individuals would always outperform the opposite on any business measure we choose? The line on grandma’s doorway would get higher and higher every single year and grandma would need taller doors.
So, let’s start measuring what matters most. Let’s make sure we deploy programs and invest in resources that help create a work culture that allows people to be human and wrestle with what it means to grow. This does not threaten or weaken our companies, rather it strengthens them and allows us to work together better and produce greater results. The good news is that we call the shots. Remember, we are the company and the company is we. It’s up to us. Let’s grow again… we matter.