Community//

The Care / Competence Matrix: Lessons from the Professor

Foster connection and loyalty by knowing your stuff and showing you care

My husband (an engineering professor at Ohio State) and I recently discussed why students tend to seek him out frequently for support, advice and counsel. The evidence for this is not only his full schedule, but also attendance at the “first Friday” lunch he holds each month for his students. This voluntary activity, for which the students have to buy their own lunch, is attended by upwards of 20 students each time he offers it. He simply invites any student who is interested to join him for lunch to talk about anything except the class he is teaching.

One night, I scratched out the basis for my hypothesis about why students show up for him on an old receipt laying on the counter.  I told him the answer to why students flock to him was simple – it is because he cares (variable 1). He cares about the students as people and as scholars. He cares about their well being. Combine this with the fact that he is a highly competent, energetic and innovative teacher, and students show up for him (variable 2).

I draw it like this:

How I show up depending on the quadrant that my teacher / leader is in: 

Low Care / Low Competence – Why bother? Why work hard? My leader doesn’t care anyway.

Low Care / High Competence – This person knows their stuff. For that, I’ll do the work, but nothing extra.

High Care / Low Competence – I will try hard because I see how much they care.

High Care / High Competence – I will not only try hard, but also will learn a lot. I’m engaged.

It takes effort to live fully in the upper right quadrant. Many days when my husband comes home and runs down his list of student meetings and requests, I ask him if he really needs to do all of that work. The answer will always be yes. Because he cares.

Here are some secondary lessons I’ve learned from my professor husband:

  • Cheaters never win.
  • Caring does not mean going easy on people. Many times, caring means pushing people farther than they thought they could ever go.
  • Earn the easy points by doing basic things like following directions and being on time.

Small Town Leadership Lesson – This matrix shows up everywhere in our lives. It’s been proven that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. If you show up to work everyday for someone who not only knows their stuff, but also genuinely cares about you, you are probably going to try your best to perform well in that role. Conversely, if you report to someone who doesn’t show an interest in you personally and hasn’t been able to demonstrate their competence in the job, you will check out pretty quickly.

What quadrant are you living in?

How would making a shift change the way you view your job, education or community?

What other variables would you include in your matrix? 

Who has shown up in the upper right quadrant for you in your life and career?  

This was originally published on the Small Town Leadership blog. If you’d like to receive similar content and join me on the journey to making our BIG world feel like a smaller place, subscribe today at smalltownleadership.com/blog.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

How Teachers Thrive//

The Important Lesson I Learned as a First-Year Teacher

by Heather Rogers
jayk7/ Getty Images
Work Smarter//

Teachers Are Telling Students To Leave Devices Out of the Classroom, and Grades are Improving

by Alanna Harvey
Professor Kleindorfer
Thrive on Campus//

What Do Students and Professors Need to Know About Academic Accommodations?

by Katherine Ponte

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.