When I was a kid, my mother had this phrase – “Five seconds of caring!” – which was constantly being deployed around our house. What it referred to was the fact that it only took “five seconds” to put away the shoes that were left by the door or wipe down the counter where we’d left crumbs from our sandwich. The moral of the story being that it only took a moment to give a damn.
I’m in rehearsal for a show at the moment. It’s a big project with lots of moving pieces and our director isn’t able to be in the room with us at all times. For one run in particular, we were left in the hands of our stage manager. I’m involved in a large fight sequence with wooden staffs that are about 5 feet long and just over an inch thick. During the fight, my opponent accidentally landed a strong blow to my fingers. Her staff should have hit my staff, but somehow, my fingers got in the way. There was no blood but it was a severe enough hit for us to have to stop and regroup. I know someone asked it I was ok (I think it was my opponent), to which I replied, “We’ll find out”. We finished the fight and the remainder of the scene that followed it. Following that, I was released from rehearsal. Since my character is killed in the fight, and our director was not in the room, there wouldn’t be notes and there was no reason for me to stay.
I left rehearsal feeling less than thrilled, to put it mildly. I expected that our stage manager would check in with me to make sure everything was fine, but there was only, “Great. Cotton, you’re released. Moving on to the next scene.” Granted, I’m an adult and no bones were broken and no blood was spilled. But I was hit in a rehearsal with enough force to leave purple bruises on my fingers. The fight choreographer did follow me out into the hall to make sure I was ok and ask if I thought we needed to rework anything to make it safer, which I sincerely appreciated. But the person in charge did not take five seconds to investigate the extent of the injury that happened in their rehearsal.
I don’t mean to imply that our stage manager wasn’t sufficiently doing her job. I honestly think it was just a moment where she made the assumption that everything was fine. But the keystone of people feeling cared for is that tiny bit of extra concern. And when things are really starting to get hectic, it’s easy for that to get pushed aside. Not caring is the default of caring, much like chaos is the fault of order.
When you are the one who’s actually in charge, when you are the one left in charge, when you somehow get stuck being the face of an organization, it’s your job to care. Set the tone. Set the expectation. How you lead will greatly impact those in your charge. Patients sue doctors not because they have actually received inferior medical care, but because they feel they have been slighted. Military personnel when asked why they risked life and limb to save a fellow soldier in battle often respond, “they would have done the same for me”. If we want a team of people to give us their everything, they have to know we really care about them. Not just when it’s easy or convenient, but at every turn.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Post them below. The more the merrier.