I’ve long believed that people power business and that as leaders, we need to value relationships over transactions.
And after more than a year of living and working in a prolonged state of uncertainty due to the pandemic, those leaders who care for their people and teams are not only appreciated by them; they’re helping them and their organizations thrive.
But in the fine art of caring leadership, what makes one a master?
Heather Younger, founder of Employee Fanatix, an employee engagement, leadership development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm, sought to find out.
In her soon-to-be-released book, The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading With Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations, Younger shares why people will go the extra mile for leaders who show they are genuinely concerned not only with what employees can do but also with who they are and can become.
“We all think we care and are caring leaders,” says Younger. “But it’s not what we think; it’s what our employees—the end-users—tell us. We must take time to listen to them.”
In writing the book, Younger interviewed more than 80 leaders, including Howard Behar, former president of the Starbucks Coffee Company; Judith Scimone, senior vice president and chief talent officer at MetLife; Garry Ridge, CEO and chairman of the board of the WD-40 Company; and Shawnté Cox Holland, head of culture and engagement at Vanguard. She also shines a spotlight on everyday caring leaders and showcases what they do every single day to uplift and change the lives of those they lead. Their stories underscore that we all have the ability to manifest the radical power of caring support at work, no matter what the context or circumstances.
According to Younger, “caring leadership is about doing; expressing care for those we lead in clear and consistent ways.” Here are nine ways leaders can make their employees feel cared for to increase productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement:
Understand the purpose behind why you lead. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and regularly engage in self-care before attempting to care for others.
Make time for one-on-one meetings with your people, listen intently to their needs, and show you value their entire experience as an employee.
Actively search for the gifts within those you lead, and go out of your way to encourage the growth of other people’s talents.
Involve team members in decision-making and problem-solving, thus engaging with diverse perspectives to achieve greater innovation.
Consider your employees’ lives in aggregate—including what’s happening in their lives outside of work. Help them deal with personal issues and meet them where they are to demonstrate you value their entire truth.
Take the time to authentically hear every person’s voice, and welcome all opinions—even the dissenting ones.
Establish psychological safety by fostering a judgment-free and inclusive environment where everyone feels secure speaking up and taking risks.
Trade micromanagement for clear expectation setting and intentional delegating, thereby granting employees full agency and confidence to succeed.
Give others the skills to bounce back from adversity and help them reframe challenge as an opportunity for professional and personal growth.
Younger stresses that her book is more than a book, “it’s a support system, a framework for leaders that gives them actionable steps to show that they care.” And when you lead with heart, says Younger, “employees will go the extra mile for you.”
The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations is available for pre-order and will be released on April 13, 2021.
I’m a social media ghostwriter (yep, that’s a thing) who helps leaders craft their stories to communicate and connect better. (Think personal branding and thought