The word ‘care‘ or ‘love’ can be tricky ones to use in business. Care is often more associated with health professionals and their patients. The idea of caring for someone else in a business context can be seen as a soft or weak idea in this hard-nosed business world, maybe with the exception of customer care – more anon.
What does really caring about someone else look like? How much do we care about everyone around us – our colleagues, clients, suppliers, investors, regulators? And, more importantly, does it matter?
We can consider the concept of ‘care’ on both a transactional and human level.
At a ‘transactional’ level, caring for someone is conditional on something in return implicitly or explicitly. This is very common in business as, for example, leaders utter the immortal words, ‘our people are our most important asset’ at the same time as very few of those people feel and believe that to be true. Staff engagement surveys often throw up nasty surprises and this leaves leaders frustrated when they go to great efforts to provide good employment, benefits and working conditions.
I asked a friend of mine recently how do you know when someone doesn’t care about you? She answered, ‘when people only reply to my e-mails when it is of benefit to them but otherwise don’t respond to me. Their ad-hoc care is insincere and unbeknownst to them, works against them.
At a ‘human’ level caring for someone is about seeking to care and be interested in them and their human needs. By human needs, I am talking about innate human needs like security, autonomy, recognition, space, development, emotional connection. That does not mean that we have a responsibility to meet all the human needs of our employees, colleagues or clients. We can however seek to understand those needs and take an interest in them and, who knows, we might be able to create environments that meet more of those human needs. In business this is the only basis for a sustainable high performing environment or culture.
I asked my same friend how do you know when a colleague does care about you? She answered, ‘recently, someone I really trust, carefully and strongly confronted me, without judgment or ulterior motive, to deal with a difficult business issue in a way where I would remain true to myself. The challenge and advice was not easy to absorb but he helped and allowed me work it through myself so it sat right with me’.
So in my experience when we really care for people, we care enough to:-
- provide unconditional support when it is needed
- disagree in pursuit of truth rather than to win a debate
- contribute for no gain
- understand a person’s needs without judgment by actively enquiring and listening
- confront and challenge to help others meet their needs and those of the business
- know that we may not be liked all the time but it’s worth it in the long run – much in the way parents would with their children
- know and demand the best of themselves
If we care more we can achieve more. We can be more vulnerable, humble, confronting, supportive, passionate and inspiring in all our relationships and in particular as leaders in our businesses with all our stakeholders.
So consider this, ‘how much do I really care for all the people around me? Or do I just care for those that can help me achieve my goals? The good news is that you know when you are being really cared for and as a result you will be more inspired, energised and motivated to reach into more of your human resources to achieve results you really care about. The effect can only be contagious for it is a true as gravity – humanity is irresistible.
Care more and win more in 2016!
Dave Gribben works alongside strategic decision makers, ambitious leaders and ambitious teams, enabling them achieve goals they care about. He works with leaders in all major industries across Ireland, Europe and the US.
Dave is a management graduate of Trinity College and contributes to various management and leadership programmes at TCD, DIT, UCD and the IMI. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org