Leading with Care

Tips for employee reengagement

Every where I turn, people are stressed out at work. Unfortunately, the underlying cause is often that they don’t feel valued or don’t feel like leaders are concerned about their wellbeing. What’s interesting is that caring leadership has been linked to increased organizational commitment, heightened workplace self-esteem, and improved organizational performance. It struck me, however, that having care as a core value is only impactful if leaders understand what care looks like in action. I was reminded of something I learned studying Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. That is people feel loved in different ways and they tend to express love based on their own love language. We should learn to show love based on the recipient’s love language. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you doesn’t actually work. It takes a bit more effort to understand what care looks like to someone else but here are 5 tips for demonstrating the language of care:

1. Mutual respect – Empowered employees feel like they have more control over their work lives. The days of ‘father knows best’ in a patriarchal company culture are over. Employees want to and should be treated as mature adults. This means engaging them in decisions that affect their future and providing them with the resources that allow them to be effective. However, in the words of Aretha, you should find out what respect means to the individual.

2. Meaningful work – Challenging and meaningful work gives purpose and a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Ideally, each assignment should include an opportunity to demonstrate skills and knowledge as well as to learn and grow. Studies have shown that some people prioritize meaning over happiness. The leader who cares wants employees to feel like they are doing something to further the mission of the organization. Helping people have a line of sight between their work and the company mission is an act of caring.

3. Compassionate feedback- words of appreciation don’t have to be in conflict with constructive feedback. Recognizing that someone is working hard demonstrates care for their effort. Difficult feedback conversations are necessary for learning and development but helpful constructive feedback is rare. By being clear that your intentions are to help them grow as a professional, the feedback is more easily received and you show that you care with words of affirmation for their efforts. Some employees thrive on verbal expressions of appreciation.

4. Flexible time – Making time for family, friends, and fun can be difficult when the pressure is on at work. Recognizing signs of burnout and fatigue is a way to show care and concern for an employee’s well being. Flexible work policies allow leaders to provide time off or allow people to work from home as needed to balance work and life. For some employees the gift of time is the best way to show you care.

5. Rewards & Recognition – Salary increases are always good and knowing that you’re paid competitively is important to almost everyone. However, expressing appreciation throughout the year for meeting goals and reaching milestones is also a way to demonstrate care. Thoughtful gifts and gestures mean a lot to people who need tangible tokens of thoughtfulness.

At the end of the day, people don’t care about what you know unless they also know that you care. Let’s lead with care by getting to know our people and demonstrating it based on what they value.

By the way, what’s your care language? Mine is flexible time!

2 thoughts on “Leading with Care

  1. True – “people don’t care how much you know until they know you care”. Starts with mutual respect but for me meaningful work is critical.


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