Just one wonderful thing about having a 5-year-old grandson is the opportunity to snuggle up with him in a big leather arm chair, and watch a “kids” movie (like Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.) The iPad and iPhone are out of reach. It’s just him, Dr. Seuss and me. The Lorax has many messages worth reflecting on; greed, purpose, exploitation, the environment and much more. But I think the heart of the movie is prefaced by the adverb, “UNLESS.”
The challenge inspired by the word “unless” hits me on the noggin literally every day. While I never want to absolve others… Management, governments, or any other group from their obligations, things only become better for us because of what we do individually. And the root of much of what we decide to do stems from whether we really care or not. It is easy to wish for something but ultimately one has to really care to inspire action for change.
I recently watched Stanley McChrystal (four-star general, former Green Beret and top commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the U.S.,) present to a packed auditorium of Stanford MBAs. The message was about leadership and at the core was McChrystal’s view that leadership is not about talent or a gift. It’s about choice. It about caring and UNLESS you and I determine what to actually focus our efforts on, nothing really changes.
Watch The Lorax. If you can, watch it with a kid. Let yourself wonder what “seed you want to plant and grow.”
Give yourself some quiet time to reflect upon what you tell yourself and others when discussing what you really care about. Then check how much you have devoted to your “care.”
UNLESS you care… Really care… And choose to act, nothing will be better for you on that matter. Recognize that caring… Really caring… Is hard work.
And deeply caring and acting on something with conviction is true leadership.
Key Point: great organizations are built on a strong cultural foundation that involves people at all levels showing care for each other daily. Yes, people and companies usually are extraordinary in being caring and responsive when emergencies happen. But the ability to endure and have super hero strength under crisis comes from the practice of daily care and support. Daily practice is the stamina, beyond the adrenalin for handling “the big one,” whatever that may be.
I was at a restaurant in England the other night with my European executive team. We were dining with execs from another company and it was a very important “get to know each other” meeting. Just as the main course was about to arrive, one of my team members passed out. As we jumped out of our chairs to get to his side, he came to. But before we could determine his status, he passed out again …his eyes rolling to the back of his head, his dress shirt soaked with sweat. In that moment, it was scary but easy to know what to do. We immediately called the ambulance, and in the meantime did what we could to keep him conscious and upright; including being at the ready with CPR. We wiped his brow, and physically held on to him until the emergency medical technicians arrived. Of course we stayed with him until he was given medical clearance, got him safely home, and then followed up to be sure. Thank goodness he was (and is) alright.
When emergencies happen to team mates, we usually come through for each other. I am always heartened by how generous and loving people are with each other under these crises circumstances at the company where I’m the CEO. The stories and examples of generosity are truly remarkable. My challenge is to have people demonstrate that level of care to each other without an emergency being the motivator.
Do not wait for a crisis to show your care for fellow workers. Do one thing to show care and encouragement for each other daily. Lead with acts of support wherever you can, including sincere encouragement and acknowledgment.
The way to have faith in team work is to demonstrate it daily, then the team work and care as a cultural norm arrives. It doesn’t happen the other way around. Most spiritual scholars believe that mercy precludes faith; not the other way around. I believe the same principle applies in the work place.
Avoid thinking that “it is only work” so why give of oneself? Doesn’t caring take energy? Yes it does. Work is life and life includes work. They are inseparable.
Do not worry if people are competing and those jobs and promotions are “scarce.” Compete against yourself and the right things happen in the long run. Be an ECP (Everyday Caring Person).
Do you CARE where you work? The oft published, prolific blogger, and organization pundit Seth Godin, pointed out in a recent blog, “no organization cares about you but people, on the other hand, are perfectly capable of caring. If you want to build a caring organization, fill it with caring people and then get out of their way. When your organization punishes people for caring, don’t be surprised when people stop caring.”
I’m the CEO of a mid size company. I definitely care about every single person that works here, our customers, and our partners. Even though I think my values and intentions are clear, I am disappointed to learn when we do something to squeeze the “CARE” out of people. Someone, usually for a well-intended reason, will put a policy in place that can knock the common sense stuffing out of normally caring people. “Getting it right” involves reinforcing the belief that increasing profit and performance does not have to include policies and processes that turn normally caring people into insensitive cogs. Check out the company Zappos if you want an example where excellent profit and caring coexist just fine.
Every day I can look around the company and get a daily reminder about the importance of caring people at work. Our receptionist in our U.K. office cared enough to start a dialogue with me and others regarding a customer-facing system that could be enhanced. She was right, we took immediate action, and improved our processes.
Character Move: CARE about where you work by CARING where you work.
Take a personal “care” gut check. If you have policies andor processes that turn you or your team into non-caring robots, have the courage to create a constructive dialogue to fix this. Often just putting a spotlight on something that exists without challenge can put “care” back into the system.
When confronting the situation, remember to attack the process (not others) and always start with what and how you can do about it first. Engaging in a tough conversation is one way of showing that you care.
Every organization is simply made up of people. If we can’t care at work, what a waste! This week put a spotlight on one process or policy that puts a drag on “CARE.”
Mother Theresa said that the most terrible poverty was loneliness and feeling unloved. I wonder how lonely and isolated people feel in western culture.
The other day my wife and I dropped in on a hip coffee house in the Eastlake area of Seattle. Eighteen people, most in their 20 and 30s, sat by themselves plugged into laptops (16 Apple, 1 iPad, 1 PC …hmm). There was another couple our age; he was on his Blackberry and she was on her cell phone. Ok it’s just an observation, but I wonder if our work environment is taking on added importance as a place for face to face personal interaction.
So my Thanksgiving (here in the US) message is around the importance of getting to really know about the people we work with. It is so important to care about each other. Yes its work, but work is a huge part of our life.
The other day I learned about the life of one of our tech supervisors. Holy cow – what a story …escaping the Cambodian Killing fields, 3 days and nights at sea crossing as one of the Vietnamese boat people, and more. There is no way I could fully appreciate this man without learning about his life.
Please take the time to unplug once in a while. Learn about the people who work around us. Be thankful for those that care and get to know us.
The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ... Read more about Lorne Rubis
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Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.
What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?
The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:
Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame. Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process. Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.