I once read an article about the dollar value of the chemicals in the human body which placed the amount at somewhere around $1.60: pretty meager. And again we hear the words of Aristotle … the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (I seem to be quoting Aristotle more frequently … I wonder what the lesson is from that.)

Although the article made no attempt to place a dollar value on the contribution an individual makes to an employer or to estimate the effect on the organizational culture or customer lives, we should all be heartened by knowing that in real terms and in human interactions, it far exceeds that amount.

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” the main character George Bailey is in despair that he will ever realize his dreams and decides to end his life. He is saved by his guardian angel who dramatically shows George how much he has touched the lives of other people and how different their lives and his community would be if George had never been born and never interacted with them.

Although the film initially was not a financial success, over the years it has become one of our most beloved and awarded movies. The message and the portrayals strongly resonate with us all and no doubt lead us to reflect on our own lives and the effect we have had on others.

It is certainly worth a similar reflection to create an accurate picture of how we make a difference inside our organizations and potentially how that leads to differences in the lives of our customers.

As a career coach, I frequently hear from my clients that they haven’t done anything special… they just ‘do their jobs’. When I delve into how they spend their work days and ask them to be specific about the outcomes, there are always gems to be found. One of the most productive questions I ask is, “Tell me about some things that took place in your group or in your company that would probably not have happened if you had not been there.” When they consider the guardian angel’s view of their work-lives rather than the George Bailey view, their perspective is altered and the qualitative and quantitative aspects of their contribution emerge.

Yes, it is true that for job seekers and almost everyone who wants to build their careers, we have to demonstrate a meaningful connection between our actions and contribution to the bottom line. However, in many jobs that are not directly based on a sales interaction it requires deeper thinking to make the connection.

  • When you behave in ways that increase the engagement and alignment of your team with the goals of the organization, are you meaningfully driving the financials? YES, you are.
  • When you have an idea that reduces the time to produce a report or makes that report more readily accessible, are you meaningfully affecting productivity? YES, you are.
  • When you mentor colleagues in ways that help them make better, faster decisions are you meaningfully affecting efficiency and outcomes? YES, you are.
  • When you give colleagues well-deserved ‘attaboys’ and ‘attagirls’ and help them stand in the limelight for their extraordinary achievements, are you increasing morale and motivating even better performance? YES, you are.
  • When you are a role model in terms of demonstrating an upbeat attitude and encouraging collaborative interactions and others begin to exhibit these characteristics when they did not previously do so. are you creating a workplace environment that fosters a community of idea exchange and best practices? YES, you are.

You can, and you do, make a difference. Your value to an organization must be measured in more than dollars and cents. So, the next time you are asked by an interviewer, your manager or a recruiter to talk about your achievements, be ready with the list of ways in which you affected the culture, the employee engagement and motivation, the work processes, the decision making processes, or your day-to-day interactions that may have led to an ‘aha moment’. Your contribution is likely to be way more valuable than you may think, and your guardian angel will be smiling down on you as you realize and describe how the organization would have been different if you had not been there.