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Measure what matters by focusing on the things we can’t fake

Here’s my favorite vision statement. It’s from an orphanage, whose vision is The sound of children laughing. Brilliant. Why? If you hear the sound of children laughing, so many other things must be true upstream. They must feel safe, well-fed, cared for and connected to their playmates.

People fake all kinds of things: their unrivalled vacation, their blissful marriage and their gifted pets, but there’s one thing you just can’t fake: the wild, abandoned laughter of a child at play. When you hear it – it’s unforced, unfeigned, unedited. It simply has a ring of truth, kind of like Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, saying, “Coffee doesn’t lie.” You simply cannot fake a brilliant cup of coffee.

There’s something else you can’t fake – vitality. If an employee – let’s call her Sarah – is depleted and getting close to burnout, she can be dressed to the nines, smiling like Buddha and waxing eloquent about her fabulous weekend but the tells always leak, giving away her depleted state.

Imagine it differently. If we see Sarah exuding vitality, so many other things must be true upstream:

  • She’s experiencing moments of authentic human connection at work.
  • She feels secure and psychologically safe.
  • She’s getting the level of autonomy that allows her to take risks and learn.
  • She’s making progress and feeling recognized for her contribution.
  • Her work feels meaningful – like she’s making a difference.


Let’s measure what matters. Measure the things that tell you everything upstream is working. Measure vitality, not with a survey – but with a more sensitive instrument: conversation. Only conversation can detect the tells, draw out the back-story and tease out the nuances that offer you accurate intel. Curious to learn more? Download a free copy of my ebook Beyond Engagement and dive into chapter 4.


Download a FREE copy of the eBook: Beyond Engagement

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