To build a better organization – or family,
we need to account for the soft-side values.
Most of us in business spend a great deal of
time measuring. We keep close tabs on sales,
profits, rate of growth, and return on
investment. In many ways, part of being an
effective leader is setting up systems to
measure everything that matters. It's the
only way we can know for sure how we're
Given our addiction
to measurement -- and its documented value
-- you would think that we would be more
attuned to measuring the "soft-side values"
in the workplace: how often we're rude to
people, how often we're polite, how often we
ask for input rather than shut people out,
how often we bite our tongue rather than
spit out a needlessly inflammatory remark.
Soft values are hard to quantify but, in the
area of interpersonal performance, they are
as vital as any financial number. They
demand our attention if we want to alter our
behavior -- and get credit for it.
About 10 years ago, I decided that I wanted
to be a more attentive father. So I asked my
daughter, Kelly, "What can I do to be a
she said, "you travel a lot, but I don't
mind that you're away from home so much.
What really bothers me is the way you act
when you are home. You talk on the
telephone, you watch sports on TV, and you
don't spend much time with me."
I was stunned, because one, she nailed me
and two, I felt like an oafish dad who had
unwittingly caused his daughter pain.
There's no worse feeling in the world. I
recovered quickly, however, by reverting to
a simple response that I teach all of my
clients. I said, "Thank you. Daddy will do
From that moment,
I started keeping track of how many days I
spent at least four hours interacting with
my family without the distraction of TV,
movies, football, or the telephone. I'm
proud to say that I got better. In the first
year, I logged 92 days of unencumbered
interaction with my family. The second year,
110 days. The third, 131 days. The fourth,
Five years after
that first conversation, even though I was
spending more time with my family, my
business was more successful than it had
been when I was ignoring them. I was beaming
with pride -- not only with the results, but
also with the fact that, like a skilled
soft-side accountant, I had documented them.
I was so proud, in fact, that I went to my
kids, both teenagers by this time, and said,
"Look kids, 135 days. What's the target this
year? How about 150 days?"
Both children suggested a massive reduction
in “Dad time.” My son, Bryan, suggested
paring down to 50 days. Their message: You
have overachieved. I wasn't discouraged. It
was an eye-opener. I was so focused on the
numbers, on improving my at-home performance
each year, that I forgot that my kids had
changed too. An objective that made sense
when they were 9 and 12 years old didn't
make sense when they were teenagers.
Soft-side accounting has other benefits. If
you track a number, it will remind other
people that you are trying. It's one thing
to tell your employees or customers that
you'll spend more time with them. It's a
different ball game if you attach a real
number to that goal, and people are aware of
it. They become much more sensitized to the
fact that you're trying to change. They also
get the message that you care. This can
never be a bad thing.
Everything is measurable, from days spent
communicating with employees to hours
invested in mentoring a colleague. All you
have to do is look at the calendar or your
watch -- and count.
you see the beauty of measuring the
soft-side values in your life, other
variables kick in, such as the fact that
setting numerical targets makes you more
likely to achieve them. Another measurement
that I tracked was how often I spent 10
minutes each day engaging my wife and each
of my kids in one-on-one conversations. Ten
minutes is not a long time, but it's a
significant improvement on zero. I found
that if I measured the activity, I was much
more likely to do it. If I faltered, I
always told myself, "Well, I get a credit
toward the goal, and it only takes me 10
minutes." Without that measurable goal, I
was much more likely to blow it off.
Creating an income statement for the soft
stuff will make you a better leader -- even
when your teenagers want less of your time.
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