antique alarm clockEfficiency and productivity have become the means by which we measure business and career success.  And yet, it’s the human elements of connection and contribution that truly have the potential to change businesses, and careers.

My partner’s grandmother (“Grandma”) turned 100 years old last year.

She was born, raised, and has lived her whole life in Moose River, Nova Scotia. It’s a tiny, beautiful place surrounded by trees and water (actually, Nova Scotia is largely just trees and water). She had a husband who died nearly 30 years ago, and 3 sons. One son was killed in a tragic accident when he was only a teenager and the others moved out of Moose River to follow careers. Despite her sons not being in Moose River, Grandma remained there, as did most of her own siblings and their families.

The Sunday Drop-In

Staying in Grandma’s house for her birthday celebrations, I witnessed dozens of family and friends drop by to say hello and pass on birthday wishes. Listening in on the conversations I heard stories of happy times spent with Grandma: how she always had a tasty treat in the oven; how often there would be people sleeping everywhere; and, time and time again, people who said how welcome they always felt when they dropped in.

Grandma is more than just a family member. She is the lynchpin for 4 generations of family, and represents countless memories and experiences of happy times.

In my own family we always had family drop-in on a Sunday  – unannounced, no fanfare, no calendar note or phone call required.

Yet increasingly in our busy schedules we have lost the ability (or is it the will?) to just drop-in on our friends and family. 

Work It Out

This theme also plays out in our work relationships. With technology, even the once obligatory office drop-ins to discuss work in progress have become an endangered species. Meantime, productivity and efficiency are revered and rewarded. But at what cost? Employee engagement (or lack of it) is a major issue and contributes greatly to lesser productivity. Newly designed “collaborative” office spaces have a part to play, but only if the culture of the organisation truly values the power of connection.

The lunches with colleagues, the water-cooler chats and coffee runs – they all have a crucial part to play in making us feel connected to our workplace, and our work.  In the end, when you hit the ripe old age of 100, it’s the people in your life and your working history you will remember, not the number of deals you managed to push through in record time.

Our ability to connect is what sets human beings apart. The next time someone pops their head around your door and says “Got a minute?” stop – and give them as much time as they need. The trust you engender will impact your overall performance in ways efficiency and productivity metrics can never measure. 


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