How to Build an Organization Where People Take Care of Each Other
You might believe that taking care of each other is weak or silly. But think of the alternative.
Care is nurtured. An uncaring team is a symptom of neglect.
5 expressions of care in organizational life:
- Acknowledge concerns. You tell people they matter when you take to heart the things that matter to them.
- Respect challenges. What’s easy for you may be difficult for others.
- Affirm strengths. “You’re great at …,” energizes people. (Affirming someone’s strengths doesn’t cost a penny.)
- Expect performance. Low standards and over-protection belittle people. But when you expect people to do their best, you tell them you believe in them.
- Stay available. People are opportunities, not interruptions. Short, frequent interactions fuel performance.
How to take care of novices:
“The worst thing for a new employee is being wooed through the recruiting process and then arriving on the job and the receptionist isn’t even expecting you or your office isn’t set up.” (SHRM)
- Novices worry about fitting in. Competency is important but connecting is essential.
- Provide orientation and training in small doses. A day of training in procedures is a waste of time. What’s second hand to you is confusing to novices.
- Remember the 3:1 rule. Affirm more than you correct.
How colleagues take care of each other:
War stories make you feel understood. You need a place to brag, complain, and share ideas without judgement. A meeting agenda for managers might include:
- Where are you winning?
- What’s nagging at you?
- What new strategies and techniques are you trying?
- How could we help each other?
How to take care of leaders:
Offer input without imposing obligation. Don’t expect leaders to adopt every suggestion you make.
Share a few wins. Leaders hear problems all day. Try saying, “I just wanted you to know that (fill in the blank) is working really well.”
How might people in organizations take care of each other?
5 Ways to Take Care of Each Other at Work (Playworks)
11 Simple Ways To Show Your Employees You Care (Forbes)
Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better (HBR)
The notion that organizational health must be nurtured by care of the individual members is, unfortunately, a foreign concept in many of them. I was always taught that, as a leader, “people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The acknowledgement of the need for taking care of one another is an important step to “knowing, as we become known” to our team members. As you relate, this is accomplished in dozens of small acts that have big impact. In my experience, true caring is hard to fake in the long term, and time tends to separate the real nurturing leaders from the pretenders. Thanks for yet another insightful post!
Thanks Jim. Perhaps we are uncomfortable with “care” because of the idea that it’s weak. But mature care does hard things.
Your insight that care can’t be faked is important. Sincerely do things that advantage others.
Hi Dan: To use a legal term, genuine concern is ‘discoverable’. Knowing leadership philosophy and language is necessary, but matching actions to words is the goal. It doesn’t mean everyone will always like what you have to say and do in business– but a steady, caring character stands out — even at a termination.
Thanks Mary Ellen. Your legal language is fun and the application is powerful. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t count. There are many things in life that we can’t see, but bringing the unseen into view is what leadership is all about.
I love the four questions. Very important for a team that has, as Patrick Lencioni would say, “vulnerability trust.”
Thanks Bob. You have to love the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Lencioni. It might surprise some, but care can be part of a practical process – like the way we run meetings.
Now hang on there, Dan!
Caring about people would imply that those people have value or worth.
Most organisations don’t want people thinking they matter as much as paperclips, carbon paper or ballpoint pens!
I really enjoy your posts, very insightful. The piece that stood out to me most was #4 Expect performance. Low standards and over-protection belittle people. But when you expect people to do their best, you tell them you believe in them.
What a great view. Thank you!
I personally don’t “care” so much that people take “care of” me, or even “care for” me …
I very much “care” that they take “care with” me …
I need to know that “we care” about the same things, with the care and consideration that mutual respect and dignity bring about, even if we don’t see things the same way at any particular moment, we know that we ultimately can … without abusing one another.
It does take practice … iterations … there are no “one offs” when it comes to “caring” … it’s a practice that is demonstrated a hundred times a day in minute ways … it has to be an integral part of the culture (a part that only managers and leaders can inculcate, both publicly and behind closed doors).
And, mistakes will be made. Still.
These to shall pass, if we let them.
I enjoyed reading this. Most organizations where I have worked did not embrace the concept of “caring” for employees. Do “humane cultures” still exist within organizations? I realize decades ago, your employer was like family and members of your immediate/extended family would work for the same company.
I do not think it’s a display of weakness to show that you care…I think it is downright human. Shows that you have a soul.
You hit the nail on the hammer once again. That is a good thing-changing your viewpoint can make all the difference. I especially like the statement that people are opportunities, not interruptions. I can’t number the times, asking a certain manager if they have a moment for me, to have them roll their eyes and sigh. It demoralizes and makes a point that my comments or suggestions don’t have value. The same thing goes for me, when eyeball deep in a project, to have a subordinate approach me for help. Do I give a smile and my time to them or do I emulate my manager? I would hope that I can give of myself with a good attitude and shoe I do care about their problems. Thank you for the reminder.