It is easy for managers to “check themselves at the (office) door” as I’ve termed it - to forget to bring the caring, empathetic and human part of you into the workplace. Managers find themselves in such a go-go-go mindset, that slowing down to engage employees on a human level often ends up taking a backseat. The net effect of that is disengagement, evidenced by the fact that one-in-two employees leave a job to get away from their manager.
But what if caring for, and retaining, the front line optimized the bottom line?
If you broaden the definition of organizational culture to include emotional culture, showing emotions such as joy and pride, you will connect better with your employees, the people who are doing a lot of the heavy lifting. We already know that relationships are a key value-based principle central to developing strong cultures and happier workforces. Employees want and need to feel cared for, and managers are in the most influential seat for creating that connection.
The happiest place on earth may also be one of the most caring places when it comes engaging employees on an emotional level. This is because Disney, like Google, realizes that genuine care extends well beyond the perks. They know that caring about an employee on a holistic level, beyond the day-to-day work, matters more than really great work/life balance programs. Marriott has a founding philosophy based on caring, which emphasizes that employees need to feel as if someone cares about them, suggesting that person is their manager. There is good evidence that this strategy is working given that the average tenure for a hotel general manager at Marriott is 25 years.
Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz, the original authorities on what make a great place to work, teach us that caring is one of the four elements of culture that makes the greatest difference. For those companies who value caring and make it on these lists, the differentiation is that managers and leaders genuinely and actively care.
To develop employees who are engaged and committed, managers have to show that they care about them as people, and caring can show up as many types of behaviors. Here are my (and my clients’) favorite highly effectively ways to show that you C.A.R.E.:
- Curiosity. Be curious about who the person is and what motivates, excites or triggers them. With curiosity comes the skill of asking great questions that help you get to know your team on a personal level. What energizes them? What do they love to do outside work? How did that big move go? For some this comes naturally, for others it has to be a more conscious effort to get out of the work bubble and into a more human bubble.
Attention. When you listen with your full attention, you can also hear what isn’t being said and you can see important non-verbal cues. As a manager, I implemented a “monitor” rule whereby when someone came into my office impromptu, I turned my computer monitor off to ensure I was giving my undivided attention. If whatever was happening on my screen was so urgent that I couldn’t turn away, I knew I’d need to ask the person to come back later so I could give them my full attention. Nothing says “I don’t care” more than the tap-tapping of keys while you’re trying to have a conversation. What’s your version of the monitor rule?
Recognition. Not to be confused with rewards, but rather to personally acknowledge. It’s worth noting that recognition can only really happen if you are showing curiosity and giving undivided attention. Consider using “you are” statements which literally acknowledge the person for who they are and what they’ve done. For example, “You are really developing strong relationships” or “You are getting the hang of this”. There is almost nothing more personal, and demonstrating of care, than directly acknowledging who a person is. If this way of speaking feels a little uncomfortable in the beginning, you’re doing it right.
Empathy. Showing empathy means relating to someone else’s situation. Empathy is a powerful tool in helping people feel as if they are not alone, and it instills a sense of teamwork and togetherness, versus a hierarchical “holier-than-thou” demeanor which can be highly de-motivating. One study shows that when people feel more freely to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another, they were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.
When you show you care about employees - in the real, genuine kind of way - you build trust, connection, commitment and accountability, and the bottom line benefits too. Contrary to popular belief, it can be done in a way that maintains appropriate definitions of authority. You don’t have to trade off being the boss for being nice, but you do have to find authentic ways to show it more often. If you regularly take the time to show you care, it will become a part of who you are, your leadership brand and the legacy you leave.
Until "genuinely caring" becomes a performance management competency in more organizations, it will fall on managers to be leaders and trendsetters in this space. I'm hopeful that the ripple effect will help decrease the number of employees who flee their manager.
The good thing is that caring is not that hard and it's something managers are all naturally capable of doing.
Like how I think, and interested in taking your career, and team, to the next level? Contact me to schedule a consultation. I look forward to connecting with you!