In my experience…no one cares as much as you do
One of my first entrepreneurial ventures was a retail soccer store my wife and I owned. Spoiler alert…it was a spectacular failure. From a time and money perspective we would have been better off having friends over one evening and literally setting fire to 125,000 one-dollar bills. By doing that we wouldn’t have had to endure the slow pain of burning both time and money over a two-year period. In retrospect though I’m thankful for that experience because I learned so much. It’s easy to say that now since subsequent successful ventures have made it a distant memory.
Most of our soccer store employees were local high school or college soccer players. Having worked in retail while in high school I had a good idea about what I could expect from them. For the most part they met my expectations on both the positive and negative sides. Owning that business and having employees helped me realize something about my own pre-college-graduation employment experiences. I didn’t really care about the businesses I worked for, rather only that I was at least somewhat satisfied with the work and that they paid me. Why didn’t I care? I wasn’t engaged or vested in their success.
Acknowledging that helped me manage our soccer store employees as well as my own expectations better. In my experience, no one cares as much as you do. This isn’t just limited to entrepreneurs or business owners. It’s a reality for many leaders. I’ve observed it, to varying degrees, in every organization I’ve worked in or consulted for.
Why does this happen?
As an entrepreneur or a leader, it’s important to understand that everyone cares about something. Therefore, it’s not that they don’t care at all, it’s that they don’t care as much as you do about the things you need them to care about. The challenge in any organization or team is getting everyone to care about the right things at the right time in the right way. When there aren’t shared goals that people care about, there are organizational inefficiencies and inadequacies that need to be addressed.
Can it be avoided?
This can’t be avoided, but it can be mitigated. For some, a job is a necessary evil, its sole purpose being to provide income. When this is the case the person’s relationship to an organization (or lack thereof) is merely transactional and non-caring. For others a job is much more than just a transaction of effort for money.
This is where opportunity arises. Clarity is needed around purpose, priorities, expectations and goals. Seldom are all of these aligned, which results in confusion, frustration, lack of cohesion and misperceptions. This prompts individuals to stop caring, or to never start caring in the first place. If people don’t understand how they fit into the grand scheme of an organization or they don’t feel invested or valued, they won’t care as much as those who do.
What can entrepreneurs and leaders do?
Acknowledge that the people who work for you don’t always care as much as you do
Give them a reason to care (What's the value to them, to the company, to you?)
Prove the value through enablement, empowerment and / or reward
Evaluate the process and results (Does it matter to the bottom line if the person cares?)
While most people care, no one cares as much as you do. It’s up to you to determine the opportunity cost of caring…What is apathy costing you today as an entrepreneur or leader?
Special thanks to Martha Salinas, whose professional journey is a master class in caring about relationships, roles and impact, and to Lee Stiegemeier for commiserating with me about the highs and lows of working in environments where people care and those where people don’t.