Leaders must both “take care of” the business processes and outcomes, as well as “care for” people. We are still “us” whether we are in work or not; only the behaviours change between contexts. So we must care as much about what matters to the individual as much as what matters to the organisation.This way people come to work, work hard and achieve what they are supposed to. Caring is what it’s all about – not soft and unprofessional, just human attention towards those we work with, to enable the success of our business. We are already experts – we have people and things we care about outside of work. We also care about the work we do and the job we are in. Contemplate how you can apply that in business and you will have a team who are enabled to come to work and do their best. This isn’t the soft option – it’s most likely to get the best performance from your team. Why? Because people come to work, seeking to feel valued, respected and able to contribute meaningfully. If we get this, we will stay longer, work harder and “go the extra mile”. If leaders care, it becomes easier to challenge teams about their performance. This is because they feel that they matter as much as the business does. Care provides the safety needed to explore, analyse, reflect and challenge. It provides the safety net required to become fully involved in activities which carry personal risk (admitting that we might be wrong) – because the situation is safe, and someone cares enough to ensure the outcome will be worthwhile. If care is absent, we know immediately. When managers disregard others, lack manners and behave in a superior way, we see teams who are derogatory about them and who work against them rather than with them. Most people I speak to can recount a story where they have felt less than conscientious attention, care or compassion from their line managers.
This may be short-term or transient in nature, although where it is more consistent in leaders and managers, we instinctively know this will impact on staff turnover and retention rates, complaints, grievances and general personnel issues in the workplace. What happens when “hard business” is pursued, and care is absent?I would argue that all of the things we want to achieve at work – business success, profitability and growth – will also be absent or at least affected negatively. Care and the creation of a safe place to work with challenge and difficulty are about acknowledgement and an appreciation that individuals aspire to do a good job. No one gets up in the morning wanting to be unmanageable or perform poorly! If the leader reflects acceptance, change, growth and development occurs and outcomes can be achieved. Positive change happens when individuals and teams flourish – care is the way human beings do this best. Tracy Kite is author of Love to Lead (£14.99, Panoma Press). She has many years of experience in the design, delivery and implementation and evaluation of learning and leadership development programmes. Her work is focussed on achieving strategic and operational leadership excellence and a defined return on investment for organisations.
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