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The First Step: Care.

Geoff Schaadt

Seth Godin has written 17 books. Most are best-sellers. His marketing blog is required reading for many.

Seth writes, in this gem, about the importance of caring:

You’ve probably been to the hotel that serves refrigerated tomatoes in January at their $20 breakfast, that doesn’t answer the phone when you call the front desk, that has a shower curtain that is falling off the rack and a slightly snarky concierge. This is in sharp relief to that hotel down the street, the one that costs just the same, but gets the details right.

Merlin Mann is ‘Internet Famous’ for his writings and musings on the nature of work and the modern workplace.

His podcast, Back To Work, is entertaining and really insightful. And the twitter platform seems custom designed for Merlin:

Merlin tweet-400x168.jpg

A few years ago, Merlin wrote a post on this topic – First, care. – that also received a lot of attention. It is a topic that he still returns to often:

You “focus” on the one thing you care about, as you “unfocus” on everything else. If not for every minute of your life, at least for the time you set aside to pursue the thing that matters.


And what does this focus on caring have to do with anything?

The human condition requires that we care about a thing – anything – if we are going to pay attention to it for any length of time.

Do you want your employees to care about the quality of the work they do, the service they provide, the face they present to peers and public?

Then it is up to you, as their leader, to give them a reason to care. And we have seen, time and again, that a paycheck alone will not suffice.

Yield to Oncoming Traffic

So where do most organizations drop the ball?

Caring is a two way street.

When individuals do not feel that their supervisor, their department, or their organization, care about them, the result is entirely predictable.

When companies – specifically the board and the c-suite managers – view their employees as nothing more than a variable cost on the income statement, the corporate culture will quickly come to accept this as the norm.

You don’t care about me.

“So why should I care about…”

  • your new ‘excellence’ initiative?
  • your latest change project?
  • being pleasant with your customers?
  • giving an extra effort?
  • your new software implementation?
  • finding savings for you?
  • the quality of my work?
  • etc, etc?

The good news is that the greatest impact on employee attitudes toward their work is reflected in the relationship between them and their immediate supervisor. It is possible for strong relationships at the micro level to overcome many of the organizational weaknesses at the macro level.

The bad news is that it takes exceptionally strong middle management to create this umbrella to shield their people. And, unfortunately, those individuals who are shielding their people are, themselves, people.

An organizational culture that does not value or care about its people is not likely to keep quality leaders for an extended time.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t cost anything to care. There are no Net Present Value spreadsheets to update. A 100% increase in caring will not cause anyone to miss their quarterly earnings estimate.

Employee Engagement

And what does any of this have to do with employee engagement?

Engagement is just MBA code for caring.

Have an employee who is ‘actively disengaged’? Co-workers would simply say, “Jimmy doesn’t care.”

Do you?

You cannot expect to perform at a high level unless people are personally engaged. And they’re not going to be personally engaged unless they genuinely believe that you are personally engaged in trying to make their lives better.

      - Doug Conant, CEO Campbell Soups (retired)


Umbrella Photo: @Tuncay via Compfight cc


Caring seems to be the hardest thing for those in upper management to do. It is obvious when they don’t care, and why should the workers?  In my experience, initiatives need to be from the top down, but they’re usually dropped from the top to the bottom and it’s up to front-line operators and lower management to make it work. It doesn’t stick, then it’s on to the next failed initiative.

By Jeffry Friedt on 2014/10/24

Thanks for your comment Jeff. And I’m not sure that those in upper management don’t care - it’s that they don’t care about the issues that impact their workers nearly as much as they care about their own issues. Just one more example of terrible leadership. Terrible leadership or an utter lack of leadership - is their any difference?

By Geoff Schaadt on 2014/10/27

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