We recently worked with a manager who had multiple employees who went out of their way in exit interviews to tell Human Resources the negative feelings they had about their manager. The employees had two major complaints. One, the employees felt the manager did not communicate with them the important information they needed to do their jobs. Second, the employees felt that the only time the manager talked to them was to criticize their work. In quick summary, the employees believed the manager couldn’t care less about them. When we asked the manager if she recognized employees for the good work they did, she replied, “No. Why do I need to tell them that they did a great job. They did good work. That means they already know they did a good job and I do not need to waste my time telling them something they already know. Focusing only on what they need to fix makes me a more productive manager.” I think the employees were right. This manager did not care a whole lot about her relationship with her employees.
A lot of leaders are uncomfortable with the word “care.” Does a manager really have to care about employees to get them to do the job they are paid to do? The answer is “no.”
You can get people to do what they are paid to do by using all sorts of manipulative tactics. You could easily tell employees that if they do not get a task done, you will give them a negative performance appraisal, and that, in turn, will make them ineligible for the next round of raises. That may work. Or you may have employees who do “exactly what you tell them to do.” What you will not have is a workforce that is motivated to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Why? Because you do not care about them. And their level of care for you as an individual, or your success as a manager, will be lacking because of their limited relationship with you.
If you think about it, the greatest leaders who you have ever worked for, most likely cared deeply about you and your success. It worked! You were probably never more motivated and dedicated in your entire career. If you have felt dedicated and motivated, you can most likely pass on the same feelings to your peers and the people who report to you.
The following seven principles will help you demonstrate that you really do care about people.
- Listen and understand their concerns.
Every time you truly listen and understand your employees’ concerns, you indirectly tell them that you really care about them and value their opinions. Instead of telling them anything, take this time to hear their message and fully understand what they are trying to convey.
- Provide them with constructive feedback.
If you really care about someone, you give them constructive feedback–both positive and negative comments. This is the compassionate thing to do. You give them this feedback because you want them to be as successful as they can be.
- When you disagree, do not make them “wrong.”
If you really care about people, you want them to have their own opinions. That is what makes people unique. You are entitled to disagree with anyone, but when you really care about someone and his or her feelings, you do so in a way that does not make the person feel “wrong” for holding a different opinion.
- Acknowledge the greatness within your employees.
Everyone is capable of accomplishing extraordinary tasks. Part of the role of the leader is believing that their people are capable of doing great things. When you believe in people, most individuals will go out of their way to prove you are right. When they do, recognize their success.
- Look for positive intentions.
Most people do not go out of their way to make mistakes, propose ideas that will not work, or maliciously do things wrong. People usually have positive intentions behind their actions. Managers who care about their people look for their positive intentions rather than what went wrong or what is wrong. Everyone makes mistakes.
- Challenge your employees.
When you really care about individuals, you want them to perform to their full potential. We have worked with several managers who, under the umbrella of care and concern, allow some employees to perform at levels that are unacceptable. This lowers morale in their departments and sends out signals of “unfair play” to other employees. Holding people accountable to their highest ability demonstrates that you really care.
- Support their growth and development.
If you really do care about someone, you want the very best for that person. This means providing him or her with an opportunity to grow. A manager told us of a situation where he supported an employee’s promotion to another division in the organization. This manager stated that in some ways it really hurt his department because he lost his number one employee. This is clearly a case of a manager being supportive of an employee when it cost something to be supportive. Although this initially appears to be a win-lose scenario, with the employee winning and the manager losing, ultimately this will end in a win-win situation.
If you manage from the heart by employing these seven principles, we are convinced that you will experience the benefits of a workforce that cares about your success as a leader. And they will be willing to “go the extra mile” to get things done for you and your department.