It made headline news when he said it: “Numbers Aren’t the Vision; Numbers are the Products”, but Jack Welch was only half right. Nina Coil, author of Beyond the Calculator points out that there is more to leadership than cost-benefit analysis, decision trees, and Gantt charts, or other calculations, and she, too, addresses a valid point, but something’s missing. Is it the simple reminder that leaders who only focus on the numbers will fail, or the implied point that humans are emotional not logical, nor able to be calculated or recorded on a budget line item, or is it more?

Let’s just pretend you’re an Executive with a team of direct reports and an even larger team of indirect reports. What do you spend most of your time doing? The old management by walking around, the meet and greet, the development of people potential OR the calculation of human capital currently needing to be spent, utilized, cut, maximized, or right sized? Likely the latter, which means you and your calculator have been caught in the act! You are focused on the numbers more so than the people and are teaching those direct reports, likely mid level managers with influence over many as well, to do the same. People quit when they feel treated like a number. The only challenge is in our current climate, they are more likely to quit, but forget to tell you. What’s that going to do to your numbers?

Leaders who spend time developing people rarely need to focus on calculating how few people they can have and still perform the results that will keep them employed. And yet developing people is also not a certain algorithm with an exact answer, formula, or systematic approach. Most often the answer to “how do I develop an employee?” is “It depends”. It can take practice, take into account personality, and certainly take courage, confidence, persistence, perseverance, tenacity, and an occasional tolerance of a tantrum, but it is far more long lasting, far more critical to your overall corporate strategy, and won’t ever need to be calculated as a loss when you invest in those you lead.

Have you and your calculator been caught in the act lately?

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