Another Reason for Caring

A recent conversation with a friend and colleague led to an interesting convergence of thoughts. The first item we discussed related to a recurring and rather distressing item. Today, it is easy to find examples of people or companies engaged in deceit or fraud. Whether it is Lance Armstrong finally fessing up, investment companies using investor money for personal use, or pharma companies falsely touting FDA approval, misrepresentation – even cheating – is far too prevalent.

A few topics later, we found ourselves reflecting on how caring or compassion seems to be frequently lacking by managers. One example was of those in leadership positions who quickly write someone off, because of a single isolated incident, with little or no effort to understand the context. And many of you reading this likely know of companies whose people actually seem to care little about customers, viewing them only as accounts, with the goal being to maximize billing – whether it is good for the customer or not.

Caring is not one of those desired leader traits that gets a lot of momentum in most industries. At its worst, the culture around caring goes something like, “if you care about your job, you’d better make your numbers.” Attributes such as productive or results-driven tend to overshadow caring. And we all know, from constant management reminders, that “being nice” doesn’t necessarily put money in the bank.

Funny thing is that many leaders and companies concoct slogans or values statements designed to convince us how much they do care. Although I have never heard company people openly admit they really don’t care about associates or customers, based on their actions, I often wonder how much they really do.

Our aforementioned meshing of thoughts occurred when we pondered, what if more people, especially position-powerful leaders, did more frequently demonstrate genuine caring and compassion about others? Might that contribute to a noticeable reduction in the frequency of fraud and dishonest behavior? What do you think? We believe it just might.

If Lance Armstrong truly cared about promoting his sport, and being a positive role model to young, future cyclists, would he have been so quick to rationalize and use illegal performance enhancing drugs. (The same might be asked of some of baseball’s alleged best, after their recent snub by the Hall of Fame voters this year.) If healthcare managers truly cared about their customer and patients, would they misrepresent research findings, including the FDA approval of their products? If a recently indicted developer in the Cincinnati area really cared about his business partners, new tenants and the community in general, would he have taken investor money and used it solely for personal gain?

Real caring takes courage because it requires sacrifice – of a personal gain or comfort level. Yet, it also contributes to stronger relationships. For effective leaders, caring about people, customers, institutions, communities, and so forth is part of who they are. It provides them with the desire and courage to effectively deal on a  more personal level with others. Understanding people, coaching them, investing in them, even forgiving them is usually more of a challenge that it first appears.

One last thought about caring. Along with the flu and other “superbugs,” perhaps there is another rampant and nasty class of bacteria plaguing us today. Rather than attacking a healthy body, they seductively attempt to erode one’s sense of right and wrong, and therefore push more and more people down that proverbial – and very unhealthy – slippery slope of fraud or deceit.  Maybe, just maybe, an increased dose of heartfelt caring would be the perfect antibiotic, needed to eliminate this bug before it can spread any further.

Compassionate or cheating – which kind of organization or person would you most prefer to work for or deal with?

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