As I transitioned from a production role in which I was actively participating in making things, to a more leadership/stakeholder role where I am not participating in the work hands-on, I have started to identify a new way to measure my contribution and impact: worry.
Worry increases the higher up the chain you go. You don’t need to worry as much if your work is highly managed, or low impact. On the other side, you worry a whole lot if your work has a bigger impact on the organization, or you don’t report to anyone directly.
I’ve found that the amount of worry is inversely proportional to the time spent on hands-on work.
It’s as if when you’re hands-on your time goes into making. Time is your currency. When you’re not, your currency becomes something else. Mentally it costs the same, but you don't pay with “time spent working”, you pay it with mental cycles spent on thinking about all the possible scenarios that can happen, figuring out how to cover them, predicting the consequences, next steps, etc. However, the price is there, and you still pay it. Your currency in this case is worry.
There are different kinds of worry, though. One is unproductive, paralyzing even. It comes from fear of the unknown, and of—potentially—unmanaged risk. Delegation can cause this kind of worry; with each level of abstraction of responsibility the risks and complexity increase. The sheer fact that things are out of your hands increases this kind of worry.
Than there is the good worry. The one that moves you, and makes you be better. It might cause fear just the same, but it's a motivator. It's an indicator of the fact that you are working on something important. That you care. An internal mechanism which makes you recognize that your work has a valuable outcome.
I like to use this good worry as a metric, and I've learned that its value is at least the same as the one of hands-on work. Instead of unproductive-worrying about not “working”, recognize the worry as work. To worry is to work, because not all work is visible, and we work even when we don't realize it. It's an excellent, albeit unorthodox KPI.
So don’t try to minimize worry because as long as it's the good kind, you'll know you're on the right path.
Are you working on something which is important enough to worry about? If not, maybe it's time you seek it out.