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By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.

Caring for and growing people does not cost money, but it does require time – in fact, a considerable amount of time.  Further to this, caring and growing people cannot meaningfully be done by email because it is, by definition, a face to face activity.

More specifically care and growth gets done, as opposed to talked about, in three contexts: one-on-one discussions, team meetings, and out in the ‘field’ where direct reports are ‘playing the game’ or getting the work done.

The starting point for leaders to translate the Legitimate Leadership principles into practice, therefore, is for them to spend sufficient time with their people.  Typically, this requires leaders to change, sometimes radically change, how they are spending their time and what they are giving their attention to.

That leaders do spend sufficient time with their people is critically important because the prime indicator of what any person cares about is what they give attention to and where they spend their time.  This is simply because one has time for what one cares about.

Leaders who genuinely care about their people successfully shift their attention from the results to their people.  Their change in focus of attention is consistent with their shift in intention from being in the relationship with their people to GET results out of them to being in the relationship to GIVE to their people what they need to become exceptional contributors and realise the best in themselves.

When leaders do not make the twin shifts in intention (from ‘get’ to ‘give’) and attention (from results to people) their people will undoubtedly conclude that whatever is important to their leaders, it is not them.  They will infer, from the lack of time spent with them, that they are not valued relative to whatever is getting their leaders attention.  Trust, willingness and loyalty will suffer as a result.

Where any leader’s attention is focused is reflected in entries in his/her diary or calendar. Leaders who are doing their care and growth job have scheduled regular times in their diaries for one-on-ones, team meetings and for ‘watching the game’.  Leaders who abrogate or avoid their care and growth responsibilities have fewer or no such entries in their diaries.  Leaders’ diaries, in other words, never lie.  They are an accurate barometer of what leaders are choosing to make important to themselves and hence spend their time on.

The bottom line is simply this.  People trust leaders who they are convinced care about them.  Leaders will only be seen to care if they spend time with and give attention to their people.