Our mindset predisposes us to think about things in a certain way. Some call it awareness, or consciousness, or mindfulness. It’s the voice inside your head that guides everything you do and say. Having an open mindset is an important facet of what makes us human. Carol S. Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, wrote in her bestselling book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:
“Whether they’re aware of it or not, all people keep a running account of what’s happening to them, what it means, and what they should do. In other words, our minds are constantly monitoring and interpreting. That’s just how we stay on track. . . . Mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process.”
One way to better understand a caring mindset is to look at its opposite, an “indifferent mindset.” My day at the company offered lots of evidence of that kind of dysfunctional behavior, from the carelessly discarded toothpick, to the senior managers who shut down discussion during the executive meeting, to the engineer in the cafeteria who admitted his reluctance to speak the truth. The evidence of a “fake” culture was everywhere: the unfriendly attitude of Lloyd’s assistant; Lloyd’s reluctance to meet his people on their own turf.
Where an indifferent mindset prevails, truth is elusive. People no longer strive to understand one another’s point of view. Concessions are accepted because they are easier to deal with than seeking the best possible result. Blaming others is the norm, and people are satisfied with a good- enough result rather than exceptional results. By contrast, where a caring mindset prevails, truth is valued, people strive to understand one another, concessions are resisted in favor of seeking the best possible result or outcome, and people recognize that quality is everybody’s business. Good enough is not good enough. Had a caring mindset been pervasive in Brad’s company, there would have been no toothpicks on the floor; employees— executives, managers, engineers, line workers, and everyone else— would have engaged in a lively dialogue intended to raise and resolve issues honestly. Collaboration and teamwork would have replaced finger- pointing and grandstanding. Lloyd would have had no reluctance to interact with his team, and his assistant would have offered me a smile, and maybe even an expression of concern: “Did you have any trouble getting here this morning? The highways are a mess.”
Fortunately, the chief engineer cared more about his company’s future and the quality of its products than about his own career advancement. But wouldn’t it be better if employees did not have to make that choice? Perhaps the most important lesson in all of this was expressed by the CEO of a service company that I know of. He told an audience of his executives and managers, “Surely we must care about our customers. But first we must care about one another.” There must be caring, and then process. Some may roll their eyes at this, but trust me— process alone won’t get you where you need to go.
The danger of an indifferent mindset is not just that it is a problem for large businesses. I believe it is endemic in our country. According to the J.D. Power 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, passenger satisfaction with the airline industry scored a mere 717 on a 1,000- point scale. That is unacceptable. Nearly 64 million cars were recalled in the United States in 2014. Also unacceptable. Of forty- three industries on which the American Customer Satisfaction Index gathers opinions, cable TV and Internet companies tied for last place in customer satisfaction. Those companies touch most of our homes. That same organization found that the healthcare industry scored 75.1 out of a possible 100 in the first half of 2015. And I’m not just talking about businesses. In a Gallup poll published in the summer of 2016, only 56 percent of Americans reported a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police. Only 39 percent reported a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the medical system. Confidence in our public schools came in at 30 percent; television news, at 21 percent. And Congress came in at an absolutely abysmal all- time low of 6 percent.1 To top it off, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, last published in 2013, rates both our country’s roads and its aviation infrastructure as D, rail and bridges as C-plus, and hazardous waste and drinking water as D.2 What would you do if your child came home with a report card like that? We are suffering an epidemic of dissatisfaction with our organizations and the institutions that we rely on. This epidemic is driven by a nationwide mindset of indifference. Over the next four chapters, I will explore in depth the four facets of a caring mindset— what I sum up as the difference.