There are many companies where executives tout a commitment to their people. But all too often, what is said is not what is done. If you want people to really know that you care, try some of these tips – demonstrate caring with action, not just words.
- Meet with your direct reports at least annually and ask the question, “What can I do to make you more effective in your job?” Just by inquiring, you communicate that you are interested in the satisfaction and success of the person. You make the focus on what you can do rather on what the employee does or does not do. Responses are revealing and you can often identify issues that will make the person more effective or efficient – issues that you were unaware of and might also impact others in the organization. Of course, there are people who will ask for things like days off or more pay but generally, individuals will focus on bottlenecks, policies and procedures, resources or priorities. Most of the time, you will be able to resolve the issue. Just by asking, you demonstrate you care.
- Learn a bit about the significant other and the employee’s personal life. While this is a fine line that leaders do not want to cross, we work with people who, in many respects are just like us. When people come to work, they bring their personal situations with them. Knowing that the individual has a sick child, needs to take care of a parent or has limited income and two children in college are important. These personal issues create challenges of focus and energy in the work environment. While you cannot get involved, you can inquire about employee personal issues and demonstrate sensitivity such as giving time off or recommending where the individual can get help. Remember to conform to HR policies with the personal touch. Again, just knowing a bit about the individual’s personal like and occasionally asking how things are can, in itself, be a demonstration of caring.
- Take time to communicate your appreciation for good work. Leaders often reserve conversations with employees for critiques when things go wrong. Yet, the most powerful motivator is positive reinforcement. When the situation requires corrective action, a face-to-face conversation with a clear statement of what must be done can be equally important. Most people want to know how to do their best work. Being timely, candid and ensuring the individual retains self-respect and confidence will also demonstrate caring.
- Offer unusual perks to employees. An advertising and public relations firm adopted a dog-friendly work place. Employees are permitted to bring their dogs to work so long as they do not disturb others. A large construction firm has a kitchen with coffee and snacks available throughout the day; other companies provide soft drinks or soft serve ice cream. A regional services firm purchases tickets for sporting events, concerts and plays for distribution to employees. One company even provides a grooming allowance for employees to get haircuts or manicures. The Oliver Group engaged a masseuse and invited employees to reserve time for a massage. Finally, a regional accounting firm asked a group of young employees what would be important to them. Their unanimous response was to allow employees to take three Fridays off during June through August. The only caveat was that the employees had to manage a rotation so that there were people in the office for client appointments and contact on Fridays. The schedule developed ensured client coverage every Friday. Employees were able to take weekend trips and better manage family issues for the summer. Morale soared. Creative ways to demonstrate caring abound. The perks must be attractive to the employees and fulfill their needs to be most effective. When those needs are met, there is a recognition that you care.
- Take time for your people. When going to an appointment, allow extra time to stop by an employee’s office. Smile, and ask them how they are doing. An investment of a few minutes can yield great rewards – you will show caring while learning something about the individual. Visiting each direct report or employee on a regular basis adds but a few minutes to your time and be an investment in your people.
Sit back and think about your leadership style. Review how you demonstrate to your employees that you truly care. Ask yourself if the people you lead could feel your love for them and their potential.
Article by Dr. Bob Taylor.