You Can’t Make People Care

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For all the talk about education, emotion, culture-building, shared values, mission statements, motivation, wellbeing and sustainability – you get the idea – here’s a profound yet simple reality. You can’t make people care.

You can’t manipulate emotions or offer a gift card to transform someone, or a whole organization or culture, from compliance to engagement. You can’t wag a finger and threaten dire consequences and get them to care beyond the immediate crisis of saving their rear ends. You can’t put a giant vision out there and not explain how people are expected to behave and expect them to care.

What you can do is employ a suite of change strategies, create a culture where caring is evident and rewarded, and discourage the wrong behaviors. What you can do is expect that there will always be a spectrum of caring running from obsession to apathy. And what you can do is maximize the upper end of that spectrum by creating multiple ways in – different ways for people to get involved, see personal relevance, and ultimately, to care.

What you can do is create the conditions for caring. Start with yourself. Ask, identify or remind yourself  what you deeply care about most. Then be honest and ask yourself why you care deeply about that issue. Next, take a look from the outside – could your motivations be interpreted differently? If so, you have a trust and credibility problem. You’re not doing enough to be authentically caring. You’re not telling your best stories. You’re not being vulnerable, which is to say, being fully human.

You can encourage new behaviors, but you also have to model them yourself. Even when it’s hard. Even when it seems counter-intuitive. Even when it might feel like more of a risk to do so.

You can find other champions who will be drawn to your infectious energy and enthusiasm, and inspired to try new things in their corner of the world. You can support each other, learn from each other and be a bright spot to be emulated.

And you can run small prototypes that will reveal new opportunities, some of which may eventually scale up and impact the larger whole.

But you can’t make people care. They have to choose to care.

That means you need to give them chances to make that choice. Over and over again. In different ways, through different channels, with different messages. And you have to show them the results of their caring actions, words and beliefs.

Caring is fundamentally human. We all care about something. We just need the chance to find out what it is.

That’s what I care about. What about you?






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