In my last article, I challenged us to rethink how leadership should work. The common thread for the Great Resignation is not some fancy talent strategy, but how leaders lead people. I mentioned that 21st century leaders need to put people first and business second. Let’s go into more detail.
Being a good leader isn’t about results, sales, and more customers. Being a good leader means caring about people. Caring is not just words, it’s actions. Behind each worker is a human being, so we need to make sure that our management style stems from a place of kindness and empathy. What does that mean? Look at the lives of our team and think about ways to offer support, help or encouragement. Even small gestures go a long way. For example, offer time off for people to catch their breath a bit, allow our teams to decide where to work, extend deadlines, call up our employees to make sure everything is okay with them, etc. Also, have we thought about ways to distribute funds to help out? Is it possible to make more room to listen and to show concern? How about a four-day work week?
When people feel it’s safe in their work environment for them to show up and fully be themselves, they’re more productive. They know that it’s okay to bring forward their concerns, strengths, vulnerabilities and creativity. This is what we want as a leader. And it’s exactly why every leader ought to work hard to show that they care. It’s how people will know that their leader has their back and will stand by them. That’s the kind of leader and company people want to be associated with. By cultivating a new mindset of empowering and caring for others, we can finally be part of the solution, not the problem.
Caring about people also helps with employee engagement. A Gallup survey found, “Among employees who strongly agree that they can approach their manager with any type of question, 54 percent are engaged. When employees strongly disagree, only 2 percent are engaged, while 65 percent are actively disengaged.”
When people have a good relationship with their leaders, they’re more motivated, they perform better and they’re more likely to go the extra mile to support their team. Simply put, caring creates trust, and trust creates loyalty. It’s what makes good people stay and take good care of our business.
Now more than ever, we have to make room for people to be human. They are not machines who can keep cranking out results no matter what. The pandemic has taken a toll on most people. People are worn down with a kind of fatigue that a brief walk around the block will not fix. So coming down on them harder, accusing them of shirking their work, treating genuine fears as excuses for tardiness is a sure way to disempower employees and add to their burnout.
These are extraordinary times. 21st century leaders need to keep learning and leading in new ways. Having a caring culture is how we will attract and retain great people, even during the Great Resignation.