People Never Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care.

“People Never Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care.” 

John C. Maxwell, (1947-) American author and speaker on leadership

Last week, I mentioned this quote in two radically different forums. While I know it is a powerful quote, and is quite simple in its power, I was a surprised how fully it resonated with both audiences. Of all the research and models and theories and ….everything that I prepared and brought to the table, it was this playground (e.g., simple) quote that had the most significant impact and was immediately acted upon.

I had three people follow-up with me to share that they changed their approach to difficult situations they were facing – to positive results – based on applying this quote. One colleague (‘Bob’) is in the midst of handling a difficult situation with someone (‘Joe’). Bob is smart as a whip, super successful, and really wants to help Joe solve a tough problem. Joe hired Bob to do so. Unfortunately, all of the know how, models, tools, techniques that Bob has developed over the past twenty+ years were not helping him successfully navigate through Joe being a bully. Bob said that he and his team were nearing the end of their ropes on what to do next and that walking away from Joe was likely the next step.

Bob and I agreed that being bullied by Joe and tolerating his bad behavior wasn’t working or productive for anyone. I mentioned the ‘care’ quote to Bob. “Does Joe really know how much you care about his success?,” I asked Bob. I had a feeling that Joe didn’t. If Joe really knew how much Bob wanted to help him – and that Bob could help him if Joe would act in a more productive manner, I was certain that Joe would come around. Bob reflected a bit. Fast forward a few hours to when I received this email from Bob:

In case you were interested, the call went well with the Joe this afternoon.  It was tough, because we had to shine a light on the elephant in the room that was being completely ignored (note from Sandy: elephant = Joe’s bad behavior).  Since Joe was seemingly unaware of the elephant, he was surprised.  But, I think it also made him realize that this needs to be more of a partnership, rather than a bully relationship.  I think we are in a better place, and I personally feel a whole lot better now that we have been real.”

Ah, authenticity. Sometimes, putting your cards out on the table and being honest is the best way to show you care. In a way that your audience can understand, continue to show that you care before you show what you know. To be clear, Bob has cared from the beginning. Somehow, Joe wasn’t seeing that caring. By being real, Bob was also letting Joe know that his bully behavior could and would no longer be acceptable to Bob and his team. Bob was letting Joe know that Bob cared too much about his team to let them be treated so poorly. (Nice job, Bob!) 


The Maxwell quote above sums up emotional intelligence and its importance in simple, playground terms. I link you back to an oldie but goodie on the importance of listening and how to actively listen. Remember: You have two eyes, two ears, and just one mouth. Use accordingly. When you (re-) read this post on how to be an active listener, what is most important is that you apply these techniques in ways that are authentic to you. There is nothing worse than someone trying to act like they are listening and caring when they really aren’t.


Organizational change management is part art, part science, and executed one person at a time. And what matters most? Care. And show you care.

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Sandra Schwan


  1. Thanks, Rambo 🙂 Great to hear from you!

  2. Great post Sandy!

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