At Hölmetrics our purpose is to empower leaders to create healthy, life-giving places to work. Most people understand what we mean by “healthy” without much explanation. “Life-giving” on the other hand, takes some by surprise. So let me explain it to you. It comes from a dear friend of mine, Alana Peters, an executive coach. It was early in the Hölmetrics journey and we were talking about work, and why it was meaningful. A lot of people look at work the same way they look at an un-mowed lawn – an obstacle in the way of what I really want out of life. But I think that work is a deeply meaningful place of exploration and experimentation that brings out the best in people or at least has the potential to do so. She looked at me and said, “Work should give more life than it takes.” And immediately I knew that was one of the most brilliant things I’d ever heard. I’m sure she didn’t coin it. It’s one of those truisms that we pick up through life, but it’s a keeper. And at that moment, I understood what it was about all the terrible jobs I had ever had. They took more life than they gave.
For a month now we’ve been talking about the characteristics of living things. We’ve talked about the organization and we’ve talked about reproduction. I’d encourage you to go back and take a gander at the conversation so that this all makes sense. This is all in an effort to present my grand unified theory that organizations, that is to say, businesses, companies, non-profits, schools and governments are all living things because at their core they are assemblies of people. And looking at that list, we all have mental images of disfunction and chaos and objection to things like governments being classified as a “living thing”. It’s not that those organizations aren’t living and it’s that they’re not healthy. You can be alive without being healthy. You can be an NGO, a Fortune500 company, or a town council without being healthy. And you can have some of the characteristics and that doesn’t mean you’re healthy either.
For the next couple of weeks, I want to talk about metabolism. All healthy, living organisms metabolize raw ingredients into energy. Humans eat food. Our body breaks down our food into building blocks that help our body run, and produce waste. All healthy, living organisms produce waste. As a dad, one of the first places I turn to in order to know if one of my kids is feeling okay is the toilet. If they have an upset stomach the first question is, “When was the last time you went to the bathroom?”
Our waste tells us a lot about the health of our bodies. It also tells us a lot about the health of our organizations.
Are our organizations producing waste?
I struggled a lot with what on earth this meant for our businesses, but then I thought about the Great Resignation. Millions of Americans are quitting on mass since the summer due to changes to our personal lives, our livelihoods, and our workplaces caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of Americans whose personal values no longer match their organization’s values and because of their agency, have the courage to leave and find somewhere that does. I’m willing to go on record and say that turnover isn’t bad. It’s a part of the natural flow of an organization. People come and people go. But… 30% of your organization leaving overnight isn’t healthy. It’s organizational vomit.
There is a natural flow to an organization – we consume things that we believe are good for us. There are three main things: people, ideas and revenue. Usually, this is a normal, steady stream of new people, new ideas and new revenue into a business – about 10% growth year over year. Sometimes we go to the buffet table and consume a decade’s worth in a single sitting with a merger or acquisition.
Healthy organizations have systems in place that ensure people, ideas and revenue are processed efficiently and completely, and only leave fully digested material at the end.
One of the struggles we’re working through right now is the frequency with which we ask Pulse questions to our customer’s employees. We thought that asking one question every day would be a good pace. But then a customer said this to us, “Every time you ask an employee a question, you create an expectation for a response from the employer. That expectation is real, but it’s not realistic for a leader or a manager to provide feedback to every answer. So, you’re setting them up for failure.” The system isn’t set up to ingest that many new ideas at once. This is one of the reasons that surveying employees in any way create diminishing returns and untrustworthy answers. We ask our employees questions because we want answers. Our employees answer questions because they want to be heard. If the person you’re having a conversation with doesn’t respond after you’ve said something meaningful, the relationship takes a significant blow.
Healthy organizations have systems in place that metabolize people, ideas and revenue to their maximum potential and convert them into energy that propels them forward into world-changing possibilities.
Every business poops. What is your poo telling you? (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)
– Chad Verity, CEO