Add yourself

to yourself.

Now you have someone.

Rae Armantrout, Care

Care. It is a simple admonition. One that may seem odd to need to reinforce. However the nature of our work and our organisations have so many ways to erode our care and concern for ourselves, our work and others. We need to engage the heart again and care.

At the easy end of the spectrum is caring for others. Organisational processes and policies have a habit of generalising people, de-individualising them and alienating us from the specific human colleague. This mechanical processing that treats people like widgets is an outcome of our bureaucratic preferences. Bringing care to each individual interaction, each decision and each action is a start of allowing the human back into our lives. We need to see the individual and address the individual needs to truly care for others.

At the mid point of difficulty is retaining care for our goals, purposes and concerns. These goals must be to deliver for others to have enduring meaning and to reinforce our concern for others. Building this intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than external rewards. Organisations put so many barriers and distractions between us and our concern to make a difference for others. We need to strip back our concerns and focus our care for what we can collectively achieve for others.

So many people to whom I speak are exhausted. We need to care for ourselves. I have listed this last because it is what we think of last, but it should come first. To be of value and care for others, we need to ‘put on our own mask first, before attending to others’ in the words of the inflight warning. Taking time to assess, understand and address our concerns must be part of our everyday routine.

Care often feels like the part of our working life that is easiest to let go. Great teams work to care for themselves, own their goals to benefit others and show deep care for all around them in every interaction. Letting go of care when things get difficult is a mistake. We are better to double down on our care and concern and work through that to better times.

And none could say what difference it made
that she came lacy-aproned every day
to raise a pale arm and wand away
those unseen motes from a window shade,
or stroke the rigid backs of certain books
with a soft cloth, and others with soft looks.

Don Barker, The Caretakers

2 thoughts on “Care

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