What is in common in caring and great toughness? (8 min read)

It is important not to confuse care with weakness or just keep “helping”. The Caring Organization and the caring culture require great toughness. Not just in moments, but all the time. Being tough one day and then becoming softer or a little bit different person the next is not going to help you get things done. It’s like a speeding train. The train has to stay on that speed. You can slow down a little bit on the turns, but you cannot get off the track. The focus and speed has to be there; otherwise you will not get where you need to go. Same in business. You have to be focused and consistent. The big question is how do you do that.

You decide to be a caring leader. A caring person can be tough if he/she has the vision, passion and drive I talked about in my last post. If you don’t have all three of these attributes, you will loose your ability to achieving anything and making the difference. Some people think they are tough when they just conform to something strong and daring that everyone already knows or agrees with. It takes great toughness to change a point of view or a way of doing something. Every time you try to challenge an existing rule or an established culture people are going to say, “Why change? It’s working and is working well.” The toughest part is when people say, “by the way, you are the only one who is saying this.” That’s the toughest part of the reality when you want to change something.

The most difficult part of being tough is when you are one of the first people trying to be tough in that space; trying to change and improve something. 99% of people’s responses will be “Well, you’re the only one who is talking and acting this way. Everyone else is fine with the way things are.  Why are you not fine? Why do we have to change?”

First and very important in these situations is to use all the knowledge, the experience, selected, formulated and analyzed opinions and all this group thinking to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and when/how to get there. You need to know what you are doing, have the knowledge and have, of course, the caring factor of “treating your organization as you treat your own family”; that factor you have developed or are developing.

There is no one formula except that you need that core; care, passion, drive, knowledge and toughness. Change is the most difficult thing in corporate world—actually in almost anything. There is no one formula except that you need that core: care, passion, drive, knowledge and toughness. Some change is very small and will take two weeks and others that may take years. It’s related to people, to process, to the culture of the organization, and to the environment.

The approach I take regarding in tough situations—and I think it is working so far—is to build a team of people who learn and come to believe in the change I want to make. I cannot do it alone—change is not a one-person fight. You have to have believers with you. First, they are mentees, they are helping you, but then you help them grow. Then they become leaders. Then the leaders bring their own mentees and soon you have a strong network of believers.

You see being “lonely-tough” is not a recipe for getting many things in this world done. You have to have people around you trust you and they in turn believe in you. That’s how I get things done in general. A challenging situation comes and the first thing I ask myself is, “Okay, who from the people I know, people I work with, who can help me with this?” And then I gather them together and then they bring their own people, and then their own people bring their own people and soon we become really strong. And then it no longer “Oh, Emma wants this”, it becomes “the team want this.” It’s that core caring culture. Every time I work with people, I know I need to help them, mentor them, engage them. I care for them and soon they care for the project and for each other and me and are invested and want to make change happen.

When it’s long-term change, it takes steps, phases, maybe even years. You seek out people and train them to start to think differently. You have to be consistently tough to drive a change. It’s difficult. But they see you be a consistent leader and how you make advances and go forward and soon you have not just a few but many people with you and now they have learned to be comfortable and part of the change process.

Sometimes an organization is just not ready for change you believe is necessary for the organization to go forward. The organization may arbitrarily, legally, or intransience at the top, whatever reason; stop you from doing what you know you need to do. This is where it is out of your control and you can’t get the changes you believe in no matter how much you try. No matter how many soldiers or captains or generals you have around you, change won’t happen because the organization is absolutely not ready to make the change. When nobody’s ready than you make the decision to come aback at it later. You turn your ideas into steps and phases; as you want to keep the team’s trust and positive drive you have so carefully built.

I didn’t have this long-term strategic thinking in my early years. When I knew I was right, I just started to fight. Now if I am in a position where the client, the organization, the powers that be are absolutely not ready then I’ll put my teams’ energy somewhere else where we can make a difference and build a better world.  

That does not change the dynamic of being tough. I call it now being “smart tough”. My question to you, my reader, is “What would you share about situations when you had to be tough with care, pick your fight and make the right changes?”