The direction from which we approach an obstacle impacts how we attempt to make sense of the problem. If we are committed to measuring success using data, numerical metrics are essential to our evaluation process. If we believe in the power of stories, then a compelling narrative is vital. If we seek intended impact as the ultimate symbol of success, we might be more committed to reaching the destination than visiting all the waypoints. Endurance and relevance might be our superpowers if we want to remain in the conversation.

How might we recognize that our approach to an obstacle is one of many mindsets in which it can be solved.

No Mail

What if you travel to the mailbox every day and find it empty? What if you sent out a request for funding as a year-end appeal and have not received a response? What if you asked people to provide their insights in a brief poll on an easy-to-return postcard and none returned? What if you announced you were going out of business, and nobody responded with good wishes or an inquiry about what happened?

It is convenient to think that our efforts do not inspire them just because we have yet to hear from our fans. I spoke with a thru-hiker who completed the Appalachian Trail. He remarked on how almost everyone adopted a trail name. Some were memorable, and one, in particular, stood out. A hiker who was roughly ten days ahead of him would sign in at various huts, peaks, and significant trail junctions. An individual that my friend had never met was an enduring source of inspiration. Each time he read this forerunner’s trail name in a trail log, he was inspired to keep going. He never caught or met this backpacker, but it influenced him to reach Mt. Katahdin in Maine and to share the story years later.

Your work might be creating the draft pulling along a whole peloton of invisible followers, and your endurance keeps them active in the adventure. Even if we cannot track every view, like, ride on, and accolade, we may be the linchpin for an unofficial team.


What are keystone indicators that track the health of your ecosystem? In nature, the well-being of certain species has a high correlation to the overall ecosystems vitality.

What keystone barometer help us track the viability of our enterprise? Is it a key set of KPIs. A high net promoter score among donors and board members? The number of acres conserved and dollars raised?

Or is it the quality of the insights and guidance that people provide to set us up for success?

How might we be more insightful in tracking the health of our cause? How might we measure what matters?

What Do You Measure?


I wear a Garmin heart rate monitor watch that measures a vast array of activity metrics.  The home screen displays an activity monitor that counts the number of steps I take each day with a goal of 10,000.  The screen changes color once I reach my daily goal and offers a satisfying sense of accomplishment.  This weekend I exposed a flaw in measuring my performance indicators.  I rode my bike for 5-hours exploring the Wasatch Mountains in Utah on Saturday and by days end I was far short of reaching my step goal, but I burned over 3,000 calories on the ride.  Then on Sunday, I rode my horse on the trails in Idaho.  The counter recorded 13,000 steps by 11 AM, the vast majority were equine generated.  I was getting the benefit of Cricket’s efforts and my numbers were highly inflated.


We have numerous tools to measure our progress.  High Schools use college placement lists to demonstrate academic rigor.  Art Centers showcase the number of children who visit their education programs.  Homeless shelters share the number of individuals housed each night.  The critical deliberation is deciding what to measure.  If I measure my total activity time I get a different result than monitoring steps, however, I miss quantifying the intensity of my workout.  I can employ a Train Stress Score but then I may be tempted to divert from my recovery day workout which would score very low (despite being highly effective) to achieve a higher score.  If measrement drives activity then we are choosing speed over experience.

Simon Sinek reminds us, ‘Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers.’  If we remember that we need human-centered strategies then measurement become organic.  If we are doing the work that matters we will find creative and flexible ways to quantify our impact.

What are you measuring?

Measure With People

Metrics that are easy to read and simplify complex formulas are awesome.  Charts that show improvement rock.  Real-time telemetry amazes.  However, if we stare at the dashboard too long it is easy to replace numbers for people.  We let systems and schedules run the people instead of vice-versa.  How do you make sure the people are always the first point of focus? 

Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers; they would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people. – Simon Sinek