I’ve never met a leader who would say that he or she didn’t care for those they led. Yet, the lack of care is the number one complaint among those being led of their leaders. Why the disparity?
The problem stems from the difficulty in turning heartfelt intentions into demonstrable actions.
The leaders know their heart and the level of sacrifice they have paid in leading others. They say with some incredulity, “How can they question my care for them?”
And they are right in their feelings. Yet, others can’t see their leaders’ feelings. They see their actions.
So, how does a leader turn genuine intent into actions.
4 keys to turn genuine intent into action
- Know – this is the awareness and recognition of people’s needs and well-being.
This is much harder than we think. As many leaders, especially men, are big picture thinkers, they look for the big things. As one father put it, “If no one is crying, I guess we’re doing OK.”
A good question a leader needs to ask those they lead is, “What does it mean for you to feel well-known?”
It’s different for each person. I have found that two things are critical…presence and engagement. By that I mean the old adage of “walking the floors and asking questions.” Too often the leader is more isolated than he thinks.
Connect – this is the ability to communicate that one understands and vicariously experiences the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others.
This is really tough for most leaders because we are more concerned with what we see is right than connecting with others’ feelings. We say, in essence, as we hear a frustrated question from a direct report that they are wrong in feeling that way because they don’t have all the information we have.
Connecting is not saying that we necessarily agree with what they are saying. It is saying we see and understand that they are hurting, or angry, or frustrated.
I have found that this response connects well with people:
“I can see that this is really important to you, and I think if I were in your shoes, I would feel the same way. I appreciate your concern (or frustration or anger or fear, etc.). Let’s see how we can work on this together.”
Provide – this is making sure that they have what they need for success and well-being.
The leader is a good position to provide resources, opportunities, or feedback that others need. We all know the frustration of being given an unfunded mandate…the “more bricks with less straw” frustration.
Leaders can also open doors of opportunity that would not be there for those they lead otherwise.
Protect – this is providing a safe, predictable context for others.
Leaders do not lead in a vacuum. They create an environment and set the tone of it. As studies have shown, most employees do not leave jobs, they leave bosses. It is the leader’s responsibility to create an environment that allows others to grow and contribute.
Leaders also have the position to protect others from things that might prove disruptive of their development such as taking on responsibilities where it is known they will not succeed.
Care must be demonstrated not just felt.