What Really Matters to Most People

The Harvard Business Review recently finished a piece of research in an attempt to understand what makes a day great.

An esoteric question that should defy any attempt to produce a specific answer. The definition of great being as unique to each of us as a snowflake.

The results, however, suggest otherwise. And resonated as soon as I read them.

Life is a journey in which we are born incomplete and die unfinished. A reality that is hard to accept in youth and increasingly obvious with age.

In the quest to make a difference, a goal in which we are all connected, we become obsessed by results and absolute measurements of success and failure. A focus which makes us less mindful of the opportunity of today. And reduces to the sporadic few the number of occasions on which we can feel the satisfaction of achievement.

Over ten years of owning our own business we expanded the number of offices from one to four. At the end of each year we made a point to attend each individual office party. In part to provide connectivity. But largely to offer three perspectives.

The state of the business.
The contribution made by each individual.
The goals for next year.

To do so we talked first about how far we had come as a company over the preceding year, and thanked each person individually for their role in that growth. Recognition that elicited the most heartfelt responses over the course of a decade and a sense of gratitude no raise or promotion ever brought forth.

The reason for which, as the Harvard Business Review research now quantifies, is that the attribute which people value most in their day is a belief that they have made one thing.


That regardless of the final outcome, they have made a difference.

People do not need to define this for themselves. Indeed they are happy to operate within a set of expectations defined by others. A fact which emphasizes the impact of management on employee satisfaction.

Telling people what they are doing is important is evangelical.

Telling them what to do is managerial.

But making sure they know how they’re doing is not only good business.

It’s human.