I spent the early part of my career as professional minister with a strong focus on pastoral counseling and psychology. Most of us acknowledge that talking to someone about our challenges, the most intimate details of our lives, even, requires we trust and feel cared for by the other. We need to feel understood, heard and honored. Yet as I have now worked in the entrepreneurial and corporate business sectors the notion that we need to genuinely care for those we work with is often greeted with suspicion, seen as soft or even unprofessional. Compassion and care for others is really a measure of our ability to understand what work life must be like for my employee or coworker, and how I can coach and care so it can be better for them. Most of us don’t favorably respond to demands, crisp emails or an attitude of arrogance and authority. We do respond to those we know care about us and our success. Yet few managers focus on creating a culture of care, probably because of their own fear, and rather hide behind the comfort of financials, hard deadlines and corporate speak.
I recently read two separate Harvard Business Reviews articles that emphasized in different ways that benefits of caring. Employees reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork in work cultures where employees felt able to express care, affection and compassion for one another. They were also more committed to the organization and held themselves more accountable for their performance.
Here are some steps to consider:
1. Develop a Curiosity Characteristic. That is, when we are curious about peoples lives, work, how they think, make decisions etc it suspends judgement and demonstrates authenticity.
2. Reflect on what it must be like for the other. Often we have a “Me Mindset.” Consider asking yourself: What must it be like for my employees to work for me…. especially when I am under pressure, stressed, unclear or avoiding conflict. Like us, they too get frustrated, anxious and worry about their performance. Compassion and care is about understanding their world so we can be more helpful.
3. Place equal emphasize on competence (skill, performance, accountability, execution) and care (compassion, humility, generosity, gratitude etc).
4. Follow your own emotions. Being aware of your own feelings is critical to great management. When you feel gratitude – express it. Sorry for a mistake – apologize. Frustrated? Pay attention to it. You set the emotional culture for your team.
5. Be human. Workplaces are often overly polite, sterile and serious places to be. Bring your whole self to work. Kind notes, smiles, a listening ear, humour and a sense of appreciation and affection will go a long way.
Jeff is the founder of Magnanimous People Strategies, a firm dedicated to bridging Purpose and People with Productivity and Profit to create competent and caring driven organizations in both the for profit and not for profit sectors.