Behind the numbers

I’m a great believer that you can’t manage / inspire / lead a person with a graph. Time and time again I’ve seen people’s eyes glaze over in meetings as charts are analysed, dissected and assessed. However it’s probably a truism to say that what gets measured gets managed.


The image above is a graph which reflects my mental health in the last 18 months. I’ve removed the key deliberately as it’s pretty personal stuff. The scale is broadly immaterial for you too. What is important for both me and the Complex Needs team is that it shows an improvement. It’s also worth noting that it is still far above what they would like to see.

I was discussing this with my therapist and she was saying that the figures only tell part of the story. What’s going on inside me is what is more important. The questions remain, am I better? Am I well?

I’m “in the world” more though that exacts a fairly heavy toll. I can’t imagine working a full week, even 4 days will knock me over. I’m managing without medication though recently I’ve been struggling with anxiety disturbing my sleep and waking me early. The graph shows me when I first presented in 2012 through to now – some of the change could reasonably be the ebb and flow of my condition not the therapy but that conclusion does my therapist a disservice. Talking to her has been cathartic and in my heart I know that the conversations have had a healing effect.

In reality I’m unlikely ever to be “cured” and get that graph to zero, that’s not the target here. That graph is merely a guide for my medical notes, a distillation of observations and responses to questionnaires. It doesn’t reflect how I “feel” each day.

Which leads me back to where I started this blog. The hypothesis that you can’t lead people with graphs. You can report and reflect, you can predict and project but they are only a guide, a snapshot, a brief capture of time and they rarely reflect the culture and emotions inside an organisation (& yes I include many “engagement” surveys in that sweeping statement).

I’m not sure what this blog is meant to be, business focussed, an update on my mental health or a fusion of the two. What I would like it to achieve is to encourage you to look behind the figures in your organisation, go out and talk to people about what is going on for them. Get their feedback on the direction of the business, on your policies and perhaps get some ideas from them too.


About Jon Bartlett

I'm a coach, blogging on things that occur to me, that I want to share and any other fun stuff I find lying around in the real world.
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