By Wendy Lambourne, director, Legitimate Leadership.
Care is what one person does for another. In the context of legitimate relationships of power at work, it is what managers do for those in their charge. To Care for someone essentially means to have their best interests at heart. It is about serving the needs of the other person before one’s own.
Good parents instinctively put the child’s interests first because they care unconditionally. Good managers similarly put their employees’ interests first.
For most managers, unlike parents however, this is not an instinctive choice. Rather, it is a deliberate choice that they make repeatedly over time. Care is something, in other words, which managers foster over the course of the reporting relationship they have with those in their charge.
Care moreover is definitely not a “soft and fluffy thing”. Care in the heart is evidenced in both “soft” and “hard” behaviours.
Caring parents feed and clothe their offspring. They give them their love and attention. They educate, guide and support them. They also establish boundaries, discipline them and encourage or even force them to stand on their own two feet.
Managers who Care similarly behave in ways that are both “soft” and “hard”. They do the following:
- Treat their people with respect.
- Demonstrate sympathy for their personal concerns.
- Make themselves available to listen openly to their people’s views.
- Get to know him/her both as a person as well as an employee because they are genuinely interested in the human being behind the human resource.
- Keep or stick to promises made because it is important to them not to let their people down.
- Ensure that their people have the “means” to perform their jobs.
- Ensure that their people receive the training and coaching they need to do their jobs to the required standard.
- Involve or consult them on things that affect them.
- Make sure that they come back or respond to both issues raised and questions asked.
- Assist with work-related problems by removing obstacles in their people’s way.
- Keep their people informed regarding how they and the business are performing, because they want to know.
They also do the following:
- Demand delivery/insist on high standards because they want their people to be the best they can be.
- Tell people like it is, both the good and the bad news, because speaking the truth to their people is important to them.
- Take disciplinary action when required, in their people’s best interests.
- Exercise fairness to all and have neither favourites or non-favourites.
In every interaction they have with their people, managers who Care act with their people’s highest and best interests in mind – which is to set them up to succeed and ultimately realise the best in themselves.