I remember when I would pass Tom, my former division manager, in the hallway. No matter how busy or stressed he was, Tom would always greet me by name and smile big as he approached me and would take the time to ask me how I was doing. He made it a point to walk around the floor, visit people in their cubicles just to see how things were going. He did all of those things because he cared. The way he interacted with people demonstrated that he wasn’t just concerned with getting the job done, but he was also concerned with the well-being of those actually doing the work.
I contrast that with the manager that filled that role before Tom. Whenever I would pass him in the hall, he pretended that I wasn’t there. He either looked past me or stared at his coffee cup. I never doubted that he was good at his job, but I also never questioned that his coffee was more important to him than I was.
Theodore Roosevelt said that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The difference in the two managers I mention here is that one is tremendously respected, and the other feared. The one made the choice to be disconnected, which communicates apathy.
I equate it to parenting. My parents were connected to my life because they cared about me. They wanted to see me become the best person I could possibly be. I have seen other parents that are detached (apathy) and the tragedy that communicates is that the kids aren’t important and that they don’t matter to their parents as much as, say, a cup of coffee.
Finally, parents that are feared are typically abusive in some form or fashion. As a leader, choose to challenge yourself and take an honest look at how you appear to those you lead. It might not be pretty, but it’s better to know and have time to restore what’s broken than to remain ignorant and continue breaking things.
Blogger Tim Peters offers ten practical ways a leader can become more caring. I would like to share them with you as they have greatly impacted me:
• Notice others
• Acknowledge others
• Maintain eye contact during conversations
• Ask questions and listen
• Encourage others with honest feedback
• Ask for feedback and opinions
• Be consistently consistent in leadership approach
• Regularly compliment people both publicly and privately
• Express genuine interest in the personal life of followers
All of these are excellent ways to improve your “caring quotient” as a leader. Each one communicates to those that follow you that they are valuable. In a world where many struggle with self-worth, a leader that genuinely cares will not only be refreshing but potentially life-altering. May you be the life altering leader your followers desperately need.