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Leaders love people

Recently I read a quote … “you can give without loving but you cannot love without giving” (by Mark Graham). It made me reflect on leadership development sessions that I facilitated where participants would use words like uncaring, impersonal, insensitive and heartless to describe aspects of their work environment or even some of their leaders. As you read these words, how would you rate your environment? If I were to survey the employees in your establishment or the people you interact with, what would they say about your leadership style?

It is possible to be a boss without being close to your employees but it is difficult to be a leader without truly caring about your team. Why? The joy of leadership is to have true followers … people who follow you because they want to not because they have to. Don’t get me wrong … being a caring leader does not mean you need to compromise achieving results nor does it make you vulnerable … it just means that you are willing to cross over the imaginary emotional lines that separate employees, managers and leaders on the organizational chart. Yes, there is still the need to respect the hierarchy and chain of command. However, as a leader you are just showing your employees that you are truly interested in the things that concern them and cause them pain.

Real leaders do not use people just to accomplish goals … they have a genuine concern about the well-being of their team members.

There are two key qualities your employees desire of you:

  1. Your employees long for your encouragement … I like how leadership coach John Maxwell puts it – “there is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” Think about it, most of the people you allow to get close to you are probably the ones who encourage you. One common belief of employees is that managers take pleasure in discouraging them by always pointing out their mistakes rather than focusing on their strengths and getting excited about their potential.
  2. Your employees also want to feel appreciated … one research company analyzed the results of employee engagement surveys and compiled the top seven employee comments regarding poor behaviors of immediate managers:
    1. Failure to give credit for suggestions
    2. Failure to correct bad behavior of fellow colleagues
    3. Failure to encourage
    4. Criticizing employees in front of other people
    5. Failure to ask employees their opinions
    6. Failure to inform employees of their progress
    7. Favoritism

Again … If I were to survey the employees in your establishment or the people you interact with, would they say you are a leader who cares? Just in case, here are some conversation reminders to sharpen your leadership skills and reassure your team that you do care.

The least important word is “I” because it usually alienates people and gets the least done. One important word is “we” because it strengthens relationships and ultimately gets the most done. Two important words “thank you” because they demonstrate appreciation. Three important words “all is forgiven” because it means you can separate the individual from his/her poor decisions, behaviors or actions. Four important words “what is your opinion” because it means you are ready to listen. Five important words “you did a good job” because it supports encouragement. Six important words “I want to know you better” because it opens the door to knowing and understanding your team.

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