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Who Cares?

As contractors, how is it that we develop, retain and attract a workforce made up of employees and subcontractors who truly care? That is the ultimate challenge. Why? Because caring makes all the difference. It naturally results in passionate effort, and drives success almost automatically.




Yes, caring ever remains the critical component to organizational success. A caring attitude and disposition even trumps aptitude. Simply contrast the heartfelt passion of a group of caring individuals with the apathy so prevalent in today’s mediocre nonetheless “qualified” business world. No matter how “qualified” participants may be, if they don’t care, excellence remains elusive and unachievable.




Participants who truly care will go the extra mile, take personal responsibility, own their job and identify with their organizations in a unique way. They equate organizational success and personal success as one in the same. They are naturally loyal and devoted, generous and helpful, and they work well with others—at least the others who care. These dedicated individuals or organizations are dutiful, steadfast and completely committed to their deliverables. They are cooperative, extremely productive and above all—very valuable. Unfortunately though, they are rare, all too rare.




However, there are exceptions, and you and your business can be one such exception. Now and then you’ll come across an organization with a culture that permeates “caring”—a culture of caring. When you encounter one, you know it. Inevitably you will learn that it starts at the top. It cannot originate at the bottom; it simply doesn’t work that way. Does it?




Shoes at the Door


The door slowly opened revealing the wise eyes and the faint smile of an aging Asian gentleman. Bowing slightly in a welcoming gesture, he gently released the door as it continued to open. His guest stepped inside and nodded, acknowledging the kindness of his host. As he entered, the visitor had obviously left one culture behind and entered another. Instantly he was struck with the Asian décor throughout the interior of the home. He recalled seeing a similar theme in the landscape as he approached the home. Looking down he noticed the barefooted but firm stance of his host and several pairs of shoes neatly organized at the entry. Without a single word, the guest humbly removed his shoes and left them neatly positioned with the others. He was quite comfortable doing so. Though he was uncertain that it was required, at the very least it was evidently suggested by way of example. There was no need for words. Culture had spoken. That was all it took. No one needed to tell him to leave his shoes at the door.




In the illustration above we find several answers to the question posed in our opening comment. Is it possible that this simple story completely answers our question? No, probably not. But it does touch on several important aspects involved in addressing our topic. It depicts some of the fundamentals involved in the quest to create a culture of “caring.”




A Culture of Caring


So then, how is it that we develop, retain and attract a workforce made up of employees and subcontractors who truly care? Just as our illustration portrays, development occurs as those at the top and other participants set a consistent example. The visitor in our story would never have removed his shoes upon entering a home where doing so was not the custom. He removed his shoes because of the culture, and the culture was demonstrated by the Asian elder and the others who left their shoes at the door. Upon entering, he was confronted with a new norm. Consequently, he adjusted to it. That norm was a culture that had developed over centuries. Though culture takes time to develop, its power is instantaneous. Nevertheless, it takes time and leadership. There are no shortcuts.




As far as retaining and attracting caring people, that is a byproduct of the culture as well. Caring people are naturally drawn into a caring environment. They are not content elsewhere. They find themselves right at home with those who care for one another. Those who care will also be naturally attracted to a culture of caring. They want to come, and they want to stay. So then, the answer to the latter part of our question with regard to retaining and attracting caring employees and subcontractors, is also found in the development of a “caring” culture.




Culture naturally generates behavior suitable to itself. Outliers are uncomfortable in the culture and will naturally leave or be expelled. A culture of caring draws caring people in and drives uncaring people out. And that is exactly what we want happening in our organizations. Hence, the refining process continues, resulting in continual improvement and, of course, a culture of caring.




Employers Must Care


Employers must care, just as the aging Asian gentleman in our story cared. It begins with those in charge, the keepers of the door. The most powerful influence we have is our own example. We must take a firm and barefooted stance if that’s the culture we want to create.




People are not equipment to be taken out and used when needed and then put away and forgotten until the need arises again. Recognizing that and acting accordingly makes all the difference. Consideration begets consideration, as mutually beneficial relationships are developed. It’s the win/win relationship that the late Stephen Covey popularized that characterizes a “caring” culture.




Employees and subcontractors have been jaded in the past by hollow promises and implications of being “partners” and yet, not treated accordingly. The most counterproductive thing we can do as business owners and upper management is the hypocritical insinuation that we “care” when it is not demonstrated legitimately. The fact that you supposedly care will be tested. Pass such tests with flying colors, and you and your business will be the rare recipient of countless benefits, slowly but surely gathering a rare collection of likeminded individuals.




It takes nothing less than deliberate and sincere effort to develop such a culture. What matters most to those within any given organization is what matters most to the leadership of that organization. It matters to them because it matters to those in charge. We impose our values—good or bad—on those we lead. It’s not about what we say that matters or our supposed “core” values. It’s what really matters, which becomes all too evident in our decision making. Do we put people or profit first? Ouch!




The power of culture cannot be overstated. Environment itself, which becomes evident in the example of those in control, is the most influential factor an organization possesses. We cannot expect others to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do. If we want people to genuinely care, we must genuinely care. If we don’t, they won’t. It’s that simple.




Though it starts at the top, it will ultimately trickle down through the entire organization. Therefore, it confronts every entry level employee and new hire who enters. Just as the visitor noticed the barefoot stance of his host and the neatly organized shoes of his family members, everyone in the organization influences the culture, and the culture influences everyone in the organization.




So then, the only remaining question is this: Are you someone who cares?









Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is known for his original thought, innovative approach and the personal development of unique processes, systems and procedures. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at [email protected].

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