Is it possible to care too much?

Today, I would like to answer the question, “Is it possible to care too much?”  This question is based on the quote:

“Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.”   A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

Clearly, this quote deals with individual relationships.  Winnie the Pooh was simply saying that caring too much naturally progresses to love (e.g., that strong emotional bond between two individuals, such as make-believe furry animal characters, or even people).

The same scenario can occur in a work/professional environment.  Let me give some examples:

  • You become so enthused about a project that you will do anything – pull out all the stops – to make it happen.
  • You cannot overcome your biases and cling to them, no matter what.
  • Your gut tells you the answer – it turns out that the answer, of course, is the one you wanted it to be.
  • You enjoy good news and discourage your team members from bringing forward bad news (this can be very subtle, of course).
  • We have always done it the same way and that seems to work well.

Many more examples could be listed.  In each example, the individuals has “fallen in love” with their project, their biases, their own opinion, history, or good news.  Their ability to “care” for their responsibilities has gone beyond caring to one based on emotions.

So, the answer is “YES”, it is possible to care too much.  We can care so much that we become blinded by the reality of the facts.  What is the remedy?  Here it is in a few words:

“Our decisions must be based on facts – not emotions, not feelings, not history – we must rely upon objective data”

We have all seen examples of decisions based on something other than the facts.  When we do so, the issue can quickly become one that pits the passionate opinion of one individual against that of another.  Or, we see some individuals become passive and stop expressing any opinions at all.  Following is my personal formula for data-based decision making:

  1. Describe the problem you are trying to solve – It is often helpful to ask, “What are we solving for? What is the issue?”  When you clearly understand the problem or issue, you can better determine next steps.
  2. Determine what facts are needed to make the decision – Identify all the factual information needed in the beginning to make the decision.  Some try to identify needed facts serially (e.g., let’s get fact #1, then we can decide the next fact we need).  Work to ascertain up-front what information need.
  3. Decide the accuracy needed or risk involved – Do you need to be 95% confident in your answer?  Or, can you decide based on 75% of the facts.  Decisions are often delayed because there is ambiguity around how accurate we need to be.
  4. Execute the decision – Once you have the facts needed and you understand both the problem and risks, go forward!  Don’t delay further!  Make the decision clear and decisive and move on.
  5. Follow-up, if needed – Some decisions require follow-up or updates.  Determine that at the time of the decision and make it clear who and when the follow-up will occur.

So, today might be a great day to conduct a self-assessment.  Are you basing most of your key decisions on something other than facts?  Are you “caring so much” that you lose track of what problem you are trying to solve?  How can you shift to becoming more fact-based in your actions and decisions?

Have a terrific, productive, and enjoyable day!


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