Are We in on the Joke?

Do you remember your first love 💕?

Don’t we all?

For me, hands down, it was Shel Silverstein.

He was the first to break my heart. Totally, irreparably with The Giving Tree.

But also the first to draw me in – on a joke. In the poem Smart.

In it, a boy is gifted a dollar by his dad. And he enterprisingly trades that dollar for 2 quarters. The 2 quarters for 3 dimes, and so on until he victoriously shows his dad 5 – FIVE – shiny pennies.

Delighted because 5 is more than 1!

He’s confused by his dad’s rage. But we’re not. We’re all in on the joke.

Even in kindergarten, I understood that one dollar holds more value than 5 pennies. Value wins over quantity.

We’re all laughing at the kid with 5 pennies.

And. At work? We’re all the kid holding 5 pennies.

We’re all laughing at the kid with 5 pennies.

And. At work? We’re all the kid holding 5 pennies.

In nearly every Pulse Check I’m running – still in 2024 I keep seeing teams struggling with the problem of quantity over value.

The questions we’re attempting to answer in these pulse checks may be…

  • Why haven’t we solved the burnout problem once and for all?
  • Why are our teams continuing to work in silos rather than collaborate?
  • Why are we missing opportunities to truly innovate, to reinvent, to leave our competitors behind?

And I continue to hear the same answers from their teams.

We’re still packing our calendars with meetings. It used to be 8 one-hour meetings. And now, for many, it’s 16 30-minute meetings.

We’re holding the pennies!

We’re preaching prioritization to teams who can’t list fewer than 10 “top” shared priorities for the quarter. Which leaves everyone scrambling and competing for resources. It’s too much. It’s pennies.

When do we do the value? The thinking? The crafting learning and building and implementing?

Drowning in quantity, we have no time to deliver value. We are perpetuating the problem.

We have to be better. We have to put our collective foot down. To stop being and doing everything. We need to choose. To sequence and focus.

What 2- 3 initiatives will truly deliver impact in the next few months? And once we’ve done those, what’s next?

We have to create change. And it must begin at the top.

We need our leaders to be in on the joke. To have the courage to:

  • Articulate and cascade a clear message of narrowed focus
  • Hold the leaders beneath them accountable to truly aligning, preparing their teams to collaborate
  • Grant people permission to block off meaningful time on their calendars; to opt out of meetings whose value they won’t directly drive
  • To make bold choices and tradeoffs

I’ll bet you a dollar this begins change.

Related: Your Engagement Survey Is Holding You Back