No matter what job you are in or what company you work for, you undoubtedly have measures in place that mark the organizations performance or production; captured in statistics. If you work in production, you may be counting the units you produced, maybe the number of sales if you’re in retail, or the number of complaints and goods returned etc.
If you work as I do with people, then your statistics might turn to the number of people who walk through your door each month, or as I work with people in receipt of social assistance, you might be tracking the number of folks who gain employment and drop off assistance altogether.
One thing that’s harder to measure however and I believe of far greater importance, is the number of people who make individual progress in their personal lives. How do you count and enter into some database the moments where someone comes to value themselves as a person after a lifetime of being told they would never amount to anything? How do you capture the empowerment a person realizes who calls you up on the phone and with great joy in their voice tells you how well their job interview went when previously they were filled with dread and anxiety just thinking of the interview process?
That’s the difficulty and challenge of working with people and yet needing to provide some measure of your effectiveness to those you are accountable to. If you just count the number of people who attend a workshop or drop-in to your building, you’re only counting physical bodies. If you capture only the number of people who exit ‘the system’, then you’re ignoring the people who on a daily basis are making individual progress and getter closer to their personal goals.
Yesterday I had a phone call from an excited lady I spent two weeks with in February. A significant amount of our time together was centered on interview preparation, practice and follow up. Now to be honest, she came to me with natural enthusiasm. In interviews however, she was unfocused, her answers to questions were exhausting and missed the mark. By providing her with some structure in the answers she gave in interviews, her chances of success had to improve; and in her case it wasn’t about trying to draw her out more, but in reality about trying to make sure that what she did share was on topic and confined to the questions asked.
Well, yesterday as I say she called. She has now had two interviews with an organization she is very interested in working for. The 2nd interview had just occurred yesterday and she was phoning to share her success; for even though she didn’t land the job as of yet, she feels the interview itself went well. They kept telling her things like, “Great, that’s exactly what we want to hear”, “You’ve really done your homework”, and “I like that answer!” so she felt encouraged as the interview went along. The 1 ½ hour 2nd interview was an enjoyable experience she told me, and I contrasted this statement with one of my earliest encounters with her where she said she was always nervous, stressed and filled with anxiety both before and during the process.
So how do you measure this kind of confidence and growth? This is the very kind of experience that won’t get notched into a database and passed on to funding bodies. These are the important stories however because the commodity we deal with is people; transitioning people from fragile and vulnerable to resilient and confident.
The wonderful thing about being on the receiving end of the phone call is that the good news she shared also has a residual impact that spreads out beyond just our mutual interaction. One of the things I had a chuckle over was that she told me how during the interview, she just pictured me being the person asking her the questions, and all of a sudden she felt relaxed and just started talking like she was having a conversation. Now I’ve never suggested a client picture me during their interview; I think that would be distracting personally and wouldn’t be all that helpful. However to her it was.
As I got off the phone though, I found I was smiling and happy; happy for her of course, but happy that I had played a part in helping her find her self-confidence. This positive feeling carried over without question as I encountered other people I met following the call. Call it a ripple effect if you will; I felt happy with my teachings validated by her success, and others are going to benefit as this reinforces my own need to make sure what I’m sharing is relevant in the real world. But again, how do you capture this kind of thing in some statistical report for a Ministry official who may be charged with determining a level of funding an organization receives in the coming year?
So do you work with people? If you do, then I certainly applaud you for the good work you do in having such an impact for good on their lives. If you deliver Hope and Possibilities delivered with Enthusiasm and Empowerment, you’ll have your own stories of Change and Enlightenment on those you work with. Turning a frown upside down sounds trite but isn’t it what we do?