Leaders Have to Give a Damn; Caring about Caring

People need many things from their organizations to achieve professional self-actualization. I listed many of these basic needs in my last post.   Here’s a select few:

  • We want our leaders and colleagues to genuinely care about us.
  • We want to contribute to the mission and organization.
  • We want to be thanked.
  • We want our leaders to talk to and listen to us.
  • We want to know what is going on in the organization.
  • We want empathy for our views and circumstances.
  • We want to be held accountable.

These needs are mostly about us so it’s only natural that the sources of gratification are also personal, or even emotional. Many of these personal needs are, or are not, satisfied by our Leaders.

It’s simple; it’s all/mostly about us.  Our priorities as people and employees are generally:

  1. Self.
  2. Our day-to-day team and its working relationships (because we receive gratification from the team if relationships are good).
  3. The mission.

However, if you think about it, organizational priorities are generally the opposite: Mission, teams and teamwork, people as individuals.  Leaders must harmonize these two concepts to optimize the best of both perspectives: the individual employee and the corporation as a whole. Achieving this balance sets our organizations up to succeed.

We start by caring about our people in authentic, genuine, and action-based ways.  We must truly believe that our people are the foundation of our businesses and organizations.  Without a professionally successful, self-actualized, productive, creative, satisfied, and engaged workforce, our business, our products, our mission, profits are all at risk.  Once our people are successful, we’ll be successful as leaders, and our organizations and business will too.  From this elemental realization, we come to understand that as leaders must care about our people and be seen by them as doing so.

If we doubt this, we have only to look at some government organizations. Many would quickly go bankrupt in a competitive business environment.  Except for infusions of money from Federal and other government entities, they would not be self sustaining.  In the private sector the same can be true, but the imperative to earn a profit will inevitably produce an equilibrium in which a business succeeds or fails.

At the heart of it are our people, some or most of whom in the story above have stopped believing that their leaders care about them, or even about the organization.

How do we show our people we care about them?

It starts with caring about caring. We need to understand that care and empathy is a fundamental need of people in all organizations. We all need our leaders to genuinely focus on our equities. Then, we must feel our leaders are balancing our needs with those of our teams and the overall mission.  Leaders must be willing and able to balance the three—individual-, team- and mission- interests–in deed and word, and be seen to do so.

Finally, we must be knowledgeable about the things that our people care about and need.  We must dedicate the time to precisely understand these needs. When we do that, we truly care about them and they know it.  It isn’t all we care about, to be sure.  In fact we help them to care about the same things we do as leaders if we do it properly.

In my next post I’ll talk about how we think as people and how that matters to leaders.

I ask my readers to share their thoughts, concerns and observations.

Many thanks, Keith Stalder, #9

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