Impact: More than a feeling

Ash Alexander

Ash Alexander,

Head of People at Front

25 August 20200 min read

Feelings get a bad rap in business. People want facts, not feelings. But what happens when your team feels too busy? What happens when they feel like they’re not making an impact? Front’s Head of HR tackles those questions.

It’s so easy to get caught up in being “busy.”

And I say “caught up” because it’s never something we really set out to do. We don’t ever choose to feel overstressed or overworked, but things pile up and time runs out and there we are: caught.

And it comes and goes in waves. You can just feel it when you’re so busy that it seems like no matter how hard you worked or how many more hours you put it, it wouldn’t make a bigger difference. It wouldn’t make an impact.

At Front, we want to transform work into impact.

But what does that mean — impact?

For Front, impact happens when your team connects with your customers. As Head of People, our employees are my and my team’s customers. Which means our impact is all about connecting all of us Fronteers together. Am I really making a difference for them? Am I making someone feel a little bit less worried right now? Or helping someone to be unblocked so that they can get their job done?

And just like you can feel it when you’re spinning your wheels, you can feel it when you’re in the zone and delivering on things that you feel really proud of. When I’m busy, I feel frantic. When I’m making an impact I feel a thoughtful, calm energy.

But is that all impact really is? A feeling?

Why impact is all about feelings

“Feelings” get a bad rap in business. People tend to want cold, hard facts. But not only are feelings perfectly valid and useful inputs, they’re more like the ultimate benchmarks. Feelings map to results. If you look back at your day, week, or quarter and felt frantic, oftentimes it will correlate to what you actually got done — and the impact of those results.

Feelings are facts.

  • Do you feel like you’re making a difference?

  • Do you feel like you’re mastering your role?

  • Do you feel valued by the team?

  • Do you feel overly stressed or scared?

The answers to those questions are critical data points to be benchmarked and improved systematically.

Take busy-ness, for example. When it comes to feeling too busy, it’s really not a function of how much or how little work you have at a given time. It’s about stress and, often, distractions. Plus, some level of stress is actually healthy as long as it’s channeled into productive energy and as long as it isn’t too much stress. When it comes to making an impact, it’s not always about making somebody’s job easier, but helping them feel supported and enabled to take on hard challenges and thrive through them.

So when I see wheels spinning or fear or burnout or lack of control in myself or in my team, it’s usually because we’re not being deliberate with our feelings or how we are focused. We let them guide us instead of guiding them with intention. That’s when I like to take a step back, calm down, and get more deliberate.

Sometimes that looks like encouragement. Sometimes it’s prioritization, sometimes it’s remembering the bigger picture — we’re all on the same team and we should be enjoying our this together.

How feelings can become facts

It might sound obvious, but for our team it’s all about setting Objectives and Key Results: OKRs.

I hold us to metrics and work very closely with my team every quarter to select the right metrics that we can look back on and say we’re really proud of the impact we made. Right now, in the middle of a global pandemic that’s disrupting every part of our lives, one of the things we’re focused on specifically is wellness.

  • How are people dealing with stress?

  • How are people balancing work and their personal lives right now?

  • How are our teammates (my “customers”) staying connected to each other?

Our employee surveys are the cornerstone of how we quantify those feelings. It’s how we set goals to proactively solve problems and ultimately make an impact on those issues.

HR is about customer relationships too

If you came to our big event on August 11th, you heard Front’s new vision for transforming work into impact. And, (like I’ve already spoiled) it’s all about connecting teams with customers.

HR teams have a lot to do with that vision.

The culture we build and the teams we impact are the people that are going to be connecting to our customers. We want them to be healthy, happy, and engaged. Customers notice over time when the culture isn’t right. Likewise, great team cultures foster great long-term relationships with customers.

And to me, that’s the definition of impact.

What do you think? What’s your definition of impact and how are you making it with your customers?

Written by Ash Alexander

Originally Published: 25 August 2020

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