In light of Valentine’s Day, I’ve been considering what makes relationships most successful. Qualities like mutual respect, honesty, forgiveness, empathy, listening, and trust come to mind. Caring about the other person also comes to mind. Do you genuinely care for the people you’re leading?

The Perception Gap

Stephen M.R. Covey asked senior leaders at one company, “Do you genuinely care for the people you’re leading?” Then he asked the middle managers, “Do the senior leaders care about you?” You might be surprised to learn there was a 68-point gap in their responses! Covey said, “The senior team could actually care, but if their people don’t know it, feel it, experience it, believe it, it’s not there…and that perception gap reduces trust.”

What’s going on here?

It is entirely possible that some leaders actually don’t care. But my guess is that this perception gap might exist because some leaders don’t know how to show they care or believe demonstrating care makes them look weak. Others might be hyper-focused on work to be done, missing out on what their team members might be experiencing.

Businessolver’s 2021 Empathy Study reported the following:

  • 68% of CEOs say they fear they will be less respected if they show empathy in the workplace, up 31 points from 2020.
  • 90% of Gen Z, the fastest growing group in the workforce, say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer.
  • 50% of CEOs and 72% of employees believe empathy drives employee motivation (which then drives productivity!).

Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything, also makes the case that trust has a measurable impact to the bottom line of time and money. If there is trust, we make better decisions faster. If there is no trust, we hem and haw and lose time and money.

The case is clear! Leaders, we better start showing we care!

Close that perception gap. Become courageous leaders who aren’t afraid of a little vulnerability. Increase trust and empathy in your workplace. And ultimately reap the benefits of better business outcomes! How do you genuinely care for the people you’re leading? Here are some simple tips:

  • Put yourself in their shoes. Set aside your own tendencies, knowledge and values. Given the other person’s frame of reference, consider, “If I were this person, what would I do or how would I feel?”
  • Take into consideration how others will be impacted when making decisions. Not sure how they’ll be impacted? Go ask them.
  • Learn about who your team members are away from work and make it a point to ask about these things (kids, hobbies, etc.).
  • When people begin acting emotional, actively listen. Let them vent. Empathize by naming the emotion they are expressing. “I hear how frustrated you are.” Ask questions to help them focus on how to handle the situation or at least better cope. If they can see even one small action they can take, they will be on their way back to normalcy.
  • When team members come in to talk to you, put your other work aside and give them your complete attention.

Share with me! I’d love to hear what you plan to start doing to show you genuinely care for the people you’re leading!