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Organisational cultureSystems Leadership

Caring IS Everything!

1 May 2023

Last month, I wrote about my new Flexible Learning role and it’s fair to say that getting the project up and running has consumed much of my working life, more than filling the hole left by handing over responsibility for Executive Education to Prof. Sarah Hurlow. I’m still working hard on External Engagement for Cardiff Business School, still have my own Lean/Continuous Improvement Executive Education projects to deliver, as well as trying to help Cardiff University to become more flexible, so finding the time to ensure that I begin the project at pace, making sure that everyone’s voice is considered, has been tough.

I have been reminded of a brilliant presentation by Ronan Harrington at Help 2 Grow’s Alumni Networking event in Bristol about Burnout and how to avoid it. Ronan made me feel nervous though as he delicately and expertly wove his story, taking us all on an emotional journey, building to a crescendo where he shared his ‘Burnout Risk Factors’ with the assembled crowd. As the momentum grew I became more tense because, knowing how hard I work and how much it drives me, I felt sure that I would merrily tick multiple criteria thus confirming the fate that lay before me.

1. High workload2. Belief I must endure 3. Can’t switch off 4. High anxiety about work 5. Perfectionism 6. Unsupportive boss 7. Lack of boundaries 8. Gives 100% at all time 9. Lack of Resources
Ronan Harrington’s Work Burnout Risk Factors – apologies for poor picture quality – was a quick snap


But reader, I ticked but 1! Number 1 – “high workload”. Possibly also number 9, ‘Lack of Resources’ (because quite frankly, who couldn’t benefit from even more brilliant people being part of your team).

The fact that I was not at risk of burnout (if you ticked about 4 or 5 you had to be worried) and be gads, was seemingly on top of my working life, produced a euphoric moment of confident calm!

I experienced another such moment when reading the FRANKLY BRILLIANT HBR article by Gianpiero Petriglieri about Driving Organizational Change — Without Abandoning Tradition

It’s SO GOOD, I have read it about 15 times. I read it for fun on walks. It sums up so much of what I consider to be important when leading organisational change but the genius part of it was, that I didn’t know that that’s what I considered to be important until I read that article.


I know great lean, I know great leadership, but I hadn’t really and truly appreciated how important the caring about organisational ‘traditions’ part was until Petriglieri, through his great case study of Marinella Soldi’s turnaround of the Discovery Channel in Italy, uncovered this for me. I mean, I get that leaders need to feel and be thoughtful and kind, but I don’t know, there is something so pure and easy to grasp about how Petriglieri shines a light on just the power of showing you care about what your organisation deep rootedly cares about, within the purposeful actions of leadership and operations management, that is tremendously significant.

Please read it, please. It’s really important and practically perfect in every way.

(you might not get the same thrill as me as a beautifully written article, but if you do, head on over!)

So the article helped me to have a serious revelation about handling change but also helped to heal an inner work wound. You see, previously I’ve been criticised, quite a few times actually, about how much I care about work. “You care too much”. Sometimes my care has meant that I have crossed certain lines where, desperate to help and make a difference, my contributions have bashed through hierarchies and political sensitivities, unwittingly. I haven’t meant to, I’ve just “cared too much”.

In a recent coaching session I was describing some kind of “caring too much” scenario or other and was presented with another two word business term that completely confirms that rather than being a hindrance, caring is completely cool!

RADICAL CANDOR!! Radical Candour, for the non-American spellers, is what Kim Scott says ‘means saying what you think while also caring about the person you’re saying it to’. You can read more here – What Is Radical Candor? or watch this video.

“I’m not crossing boundaries and ruffling political feathers ACTUALLY, I’m being radically candid!”.

Scott is very clear to point out that radical candour DOES NOT MEAN Brutal Honesty, which is a bit of a shame because I quite like that too. Alas.

The point of sharing these revelations is just to remind you that it is ok to care about work. It’s not only ok, it actually helps you to achieve what you are trying to achieve. As Gianpiero Petriglieri says, Soldi “never stopped caring, and never stopped arguing, providing the leadership combination that slowly proves defenses unnecessary, offering a better, more adaptive, way to do things”.

The idiom “no one ever wishes that they worked harder on their death bed” flashes through my mind as I share that, which is true, I get it, but I don’t suffer from 02, 03, 04, 05 or 08 actually and caring helps me to be good at what I do.