Caring. Kind. Compassionate.
Maybe these aren’t the words that spring to mind as being important in our results orientated, goal-driven world. But they do matter. A lot.
Because if you want others to listen to you, you have to show that you care, deeply, about what you stand for.
It’s the one thing we all care about – feeling cared for. As an employee, customer, parent or a student, feeling that those in charge care for your safety and wellbeing is vital, if you want to stay connected with a process, a team, or workplace.
Not feeling cared for hurts, we feel bad and suffer diminished self-confidence and self-esteem. Our neural networks are designed to support social connection.
Which is why being a caring leader matters.
At a business networking function I recently attended, the lunchtime speaker was a CFO of a global company sharing some of her insights and experiences about her journey to her current position. She spoke about her frustration in battling entrenched company behaviours that she felt were outmoded and unhelpful and about an incident that had happened that very morning prior to attending the event. One of her staff members had handed in their resignation. She wanted to find out why he had come to that decision and what his future plans were. As she listened she was becoming increasingly concerned about how he would manage and offered $5000 to assist him with further training in the interim.
It was a very generous offer, but more than that, it was about caring for a person, not just a disgruntled employee packing their bags and leaving. No doubt the impact of that conversation would have been one of feeling heard, related to and understood. It gave dignity to a difficult situation.
Why don’t we always care?
Caring isn’t always easy. Working hard, focusing on what needs to be done, needing results means our line of sight can start to overlook the human element.
Pressure of work, while not an excuse, can through prolonged elevated levels of stress lead to a loss of empathy, compassion fatigue and potential burnout. Operating in survival mode shuts down our capacity to care.
What’s going on in your brain?
Neuroscience has shown that when we are thinking about our goals and results we use a different neural network to when we are people-focused. While it is naturally possible to switch from one way of thinking to the other, other factors including personality, cognitive biases and belief systems can veer us more in one direction than another.
Effective leadership requires access to both ways of thinking and that’s hard.
A study by the Management Research Group sampled 60,000 executives and managers across 4 countries over a 10-year period found that only 0.77% were perceived as having social and goal-focused leadership qualities. Whilst that sounds pretty dire it reflects that our brain is set up to operate being either goal-directed or people directed at any one time The skill comes from being able to switch quickly between the two – and that can be learned, although it’s not easy.
Starting with the awareness that’s how the brain works, can help a leader determine which skill set is the most appropriate for a given moment.
Creating a culture of caring
The modern workplace now expects greater people focus.
A report by DeVry found that 71% of millennials want to be engaged in ‘meaningful’ work, that makes them feel they are engaged in something worthwhile and seen as being of value to the company and the greater good. If we feel someone cares about the work we do, we’re more engaged and focused.
What’s the recipe to create a culture of care?
- Ask relevant questions.
- Take action to fix an identified problem.
- Say thank you for what is being done well.
- Encourage and nurture talent.
- Provide support when things go wrong.
- Take time out to press pause and think about others.
- Do something for someone else.
Who Gives A Crap?
Who Gives A Crap is a brand of toilet paper that provides nice soft loo paper to wipe our bums with and gifts 50% of its profits to WaterAid. 2.4 billion people in the world do not have access to basic sanitation. Four thousand children under the age of five die every day from preventable waterborne disease.
Who Gives A Crap do.