Max De Pree wrote in Leadership is an Art : “In many areas of business, sadly, “to care” is an innovation.” He wrote the book in 1987 and sadly 30 years later caring is still a business unmet innovative space.
Every single client I work with laments lack or low employee’s accountability. The vast majority of the conversations around accountability becomes a way to blame others. It has become a measurement of the mistakes someone makes along the way.
“At the heart of being accountable is the matter of caring” De Pree wrote.
In these terms, to be accountable, means caring. It means having the opportunity to share ownership of challenges and risks as well as praise for achievements. It means to be bound emotionally, behaviorally, and intellectually to someone or something.
How do you then make people care?
There is a proliferation of services aimed at improving accountability in the workplace. Most of them deal with teaching how to give feedback and managing low performance, setting clearer goals and making clear what is expected from the employees.
Here’s the harsh truth. You can’t make people care. But, you can inspire them to care by starting to care yourself.
Your people won’t care about the company or the goals you set upon them unless you care about them and their wellbeing first. Appreciation is the number one thing employees say their managers could do to inspire them to produce great work.
But be aware of the difference between appreciation and incentives. Incentives, are a transaction—if you accomplish abc, then you receive xyz. Appreciation instead isn’t focused on the outcome. It’s an acknowledgment of a person’s intention, sweat and hard work; it is an acknowledgement of who they are before of what they do. Appreciation is focused on caring about the human being. One of the roadblocks to appreciation is thinking that someone wakes up in the morning to go to the office and spend minimum 8 hours being mediocre or not showing accountability.
Every single person I talk to and that asks my advice to find a new career path or re-discover his/her purpose expresses the desire to make a difference in fact to be a difference-maker. With this in mind, before complaining about low employees’ accountability let’s ask a different question: “How can I help them making that difference?”
By reframing the challenge of accountability in this terms you start focusing on caring about your employees and caring about finding a way to support them fulfilling their potential. Asking this question to yourself every time you are facing a challenge with your team, your organisations, or your children, sends a very clear message: it shows you care.
In what other ways can you show care? What are the actions of someone who cares? These are simple actions you can start focusing on:
- Genuinely say thank you or sorry. Not because you have to or to show you have manners. Mean it.
- Look at people in the eyes and try to see them not your idea of them.
- Speak to people not at people.
- Be curious of diversity do not judge it.
- Listen carefully to contrary opinions.
- Seek for questions not answers.
- Show commitment to the common good not merely to your own personal interest.
- Support the fulfilment of people’s purpose not only goals.
Either you like it or not your actions show what you care for more than your words do.
Spend time caring about your people. Your people are your company. They keep you in business.
Have courage to care, even when it makes you feel too vulnerable. Have the courage to admit when you didn't care. Caring is the most courageous act you can show to your business.
Here a poem from The Whisper for some inspiration.
Courage to have the heart to admit I have been afraid to be real I have been hiding from the challenges
Walking away from feelings and their consequences
I proclaimed my courage shouting victim
Denying the necessity of relationships Confused
I realized what I really care about is love Connection and hugs I had exiled
In the act of declaring game over
Raising the white flag
Looking back I saw a siege
The siege of courage
I step into
I needed affection attention interaction
That fight could not be played from distance It required contact
In the contact with the warrior
The war field of my heart became the playground for new discoveries