As well as working with individuals in companies Below the Line also works with teams. A big part of this work involves getting people to consider what impact does bringing care into situations where people may not think it belongs. Dave Gribben of Below the Line Ireland & Enable Consulting shares some thoughts on the idea of really caring in business.
How Much Do You Care?
In conversation recently with a colleague they explained to me a challenge that they were having with a senior manager in their company who has recently recognised the need for a change in the culture in the organisation that would foster a greater sense of belonging, team work and value being placed on the contributions that staff make to the ongoing success of the company. And yet in the very same breath as they were recognising this need they inadvertently pinpointed one of the key impediments to making this change happen by saying that stopping a colleague in the corridor to ask them how their weekend had been was not something that they could ever see themselves doing.
The disconnect between these two statements was as stark for me as it was for my colleague who has been trying to hold a mirror up to these behaviours over the past few months and finding it very frustrating.
This is something that I regularly come across in my work as a consultant in businesses both here in Ireland and abroad and it is a theme that I feel very passionate about. In order to help leaders and managers think about this I differentiate between the concepts of ‘transactional care’ and ‘human care’. Transactional care is about the notion of doing something with the expectation either implicitly or explicitly that the favour be returned. Human care refers to the idea of really caring about someone at a human level and their innate needs for things like security, respect, autonomy, recognition and emotional connection.
We all know when we are being cared about and when we are not. We’ve all experienced someone who might only reply to our emails when it is in their interest to do so and who ignore or avoid us when there is no immediate benefit for them in helping or even in simply getting back to us.
Similarly, the times when we have experienced genuine kindness, compassion or understanding from people particularly when we have been vulnerable or in need of support are ones that will always stand out for us in our working lives.
The Mirror Effect
I regularly tell people that I work with that our actions are our priorities and one of the first places I start when working with a leader is to get a real picture of what they are doing on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in order to find out what’s really important for them. Turning a mirror on these things can be tricky for them as it can often throw up a disconnect between what an individual says or thinks are their priorities and what they actually spend their time doing. This isn’t always easy and for a leader it can prove very challenging to be confronted with the divergence between what they feel and what they actually do.
I suspect that the conversation I would have with the senior manager in the example cited above would have the potential to be a challenging one as it would start with asking them about how much do they really care about those around them? The brilliant thing about this is that the answer is more than likely to be that they care a lot and if we can begin from that point then all we would be looking at are ways that they can practically incorporate this thinking into their daily interactions with everyone around them.
If we care more then we can be more vulnerable, more supportive, challenge each other openly and honestly and rally around our common goals and targets in a much more constructive and positive manner. Supporting and enabling leaders and teams to care more is something that I love to do as the ripple effect caused by people really caring for one another in a team and a wider organisation is both hugely satisfying and inspiring.