Do You Care?
Sometimes I’m blown away by the wisdom that comes out of my eight-year-old’s mouth. This morning, on cue, Jeremy woke up at 7am, walked right up to the piano and started playing. Now normally, if I’m honest, I cringe. Not because his playing is bad, but because I find any loud noise so early in the morning rather jarring. But this morning it sounded truly beautiful and I told him so. He looked at me, smiled, and very seriously said, “Mommy, do you know how I play it so good? You have to really care about what you’re playing, to play it like this.”
Now, grammar aside, that comment was extraordinary! Woot-woot for Jeremy! These moments give me hope as a mother. Because if he gets that – really gets it – he’s way ahead of the curve.
And it’s a good enough list. All of these are fairly standard questions employees could expect to find on their annual feedback report that they complete about their boss. They make it possible for companies to measure the right behaviors and collect reams of data. Of course there’s value in that, but I think they’re missing a component. Because you can measure behaviors, but the behaviors don’t matter if you’re not really measuring the impact.
Question #3 bugs me. For “expressing interest and concern” isn’t the goal. The goal is: Do the people who report to you really experience that you care?
It’s hard to measure caring.
About three years ago I was working with a company in Chicago. I spent 6 months flying back and forth from Dallas, doing short 4-hour sessions monthly (we were taking the slow-drip approach). I got to know these folks really well. After two months I was on a first-name-basis with everyone in the department. After four months, I knew about their kids, their passions, their frustrations. They felt comfortable confiding in me.
At the end of our six months, we were talking about “biggest take-aways” and one of the young managers said, “For me it was the idea of getting real buy-in. I had always just wanted people to do what I asked them to do. I’d ask them questions about what’s going on and stuff, to be nice, but the truth was I didn’t really care what they were interested in or what their issues were – I just wanted them to do their job! But now I realize that if I don’t care, they won’t care. And man does it show in our results!”
Here’s the thing, if you’re asking questions “to be nice” – or because you’re being measured on whether or not you’re “expressing interest”, without really caring, people know. If you want people to play full out, they have to care – and you have to go first.
As Jeremy said this morning, to”…play it so good? You have to really care about what you’re playing…”
The leader that can unlock that will be unstoppable. By any measurement.