Managing = Caring

Managing = Caring 1080 565 Jason Lauritsen

The longer I study and teach management, the simpler things become.

For example, this week, I was again asked how managing a hybrid team is different than managing a team that is in the office full-time. 

When someone asks this question, they are expecting me to share how managing a hybrid team is more challenging. They expect me to validate their belief that it’s far more complicated to manage a hybrid team.

It’s not. 

Is managing a hybrid team different in some ways? Sure. 

Just like being in a long-distance relationship is different than one where you see your partner every day. 

What’s true in both cases is that if you don’t have the right foundation in place for the relationship, nothing else really matters.  

The most important ingredient in both cases is care.  

Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about you is miserable regardless of how much you see them, we’ve all been there.

At some point in our career, most of us have worked for managers who we saw every day, who clearly didn’t care about us or our success and it sucks. 

When you don’t care about your people as a manager, they will never step up for you. They will never give their best effort. They will never trust you. They will never be loyal. 

If you don’t care about your people, they will move on to another job where they at least have some hope that their manager might care. 

Caring is where it starts

Years ago, I remember chatting over coffee with a friend. We both had young children and were commiserating over our parental worries and insecurities.

We were both obsessing over how our actions and the decisions we make for our children. They feel so important–as if we were somehow creating and removing opportunities for our children in every instance. 

After an hour or more of participating in this game of “No, I think I’m messing my kids up more than you,” my friend paused for a moment and smiled. 

She looked over at me and said, “I think the fact we care so much about all of this is a good sign we are doing okay as parents.” 

This was well over a decade ago and I still remember those words vividly. 

Caring is the first step toward doing it right.  

Do you care enough? 

This may seem like a simple question, but it’s really a gut check as a manager.

  • Do you care enough to prioritize your people’s needs, sometimes above your own?
  • Do you care enough to do the hard work of creating clarity about expectations?
  • Do you care enough to hold your people accountable and be accountable to them in return?
  • Do you care enough to help people with things you “shouldn’t have to” help with? 
  • Do you care enough to be patient and kind when people fail? 
  • Do you care enough to give people the benefit of the doubt? 
  • Do you care enough to have your people’s back, even when it means putting yourself at risk?

Caring is the job of management. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. It’s real work. 

Here’s the truth. If you don’t care about your people and really want to see them succeed in their personal and professional lives, then you shouldn’t be in management. Hard stop.  

Your people deserve better. 

If you aren’t sure if you care enough, you probably don’t, but as long as you are willing to do the work, you can fix it.  

How do you become more caring as a manager? 

Caring is a choice. Granted, it’s not an optional choice. If you want to be a manager, then you must choose to care for your people. 

If you can’t be bothered with doing the work of caring, then you should find another job to do. There are plenty of jobs out there that don’t require this work. 

Managing = caring. Below are some steps you can take to ensure that you are demonstrating to your people that you care so they will stick with you and give you their best.

1. Get your mind right. 

Your job is to enable the success of each member of your team. Enable is the keyword here. People want to succeed. They will choose success over failure whenever given the opportunity. 

People don’t need to be motivated to perform. Read that again. Instead, what people require is a manager who ensures they have what they need to perform well. That might mean support for their mental health one day and clarity about work goals the next. They need what they need. People are complicated. Our job isn’t to judge, it’s to help. 

People also need a manager who will help them with challenges whenever those challenges arise. Work can feel like an obstacle course with one challenge to face after another. Your job is to help them navigate the course, helping them reach the goal. Remove obstacles when you can. Help them face or get around them when you can’t. You are in it together. 

So many managers get this wrong. They think their job is to force people to perform. They micromanage like some overlord assuming that it’s their actions that drive performance when in fact, it’s the opposite. Micromanagement kills the desire to perform. 

Caring managers approach their jobs more like a farmer who cultivates the growth of their crops. Farmers know that if they provide what their plants need and deal with any threats or obstacles that might hinder growth, the plants will do the rest.

People have an incredible capacity to perform when we cultivate it in this way. 

2. Get to know your people. 

This feels like one of those things that Captain Obvious would say. When people talk about employers they hate, they say things like, “you feel like you are just a number to them.” 

If you want someone to feel like you don’t care, make no effort to learn anything about them. Feeling unseen and unvalued is a red carpet invitation to go find a different job. It’s like saying “Nobody here cares if I stay or go.”

Getting to know your people is perhaps one of the fastest and most effective ways to develop your caring skills as a manager. Invest in getting to know your people as people. It’s simple. Three steps.

  1. Ask questions. For example, what do you have planned for the weekend? Or, where did you grow up? Any question that invites them to share some insights about who they are is a good one. 
  2. Listen. If you ask a good question and then signal that you really want to hear their response by shutting up, making eye contact and waiting, they will reveal some wonderful things. 
  3. Make some notes. Unless you have an incredible memory or are somehow gifted with another superpower that helps you never forget anything important, jot down what you learn in these conversations. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I would ask great questions, listen intently and be delighted with what I heard. Then, I’d forget to write down what I heard and I would forget. What a waste. Don’t make my mistake. 

When you get to know people better, your natural caring and compassion instincts will kick in. The more you know, the more you will care. 

3. Check-in

Once you embrace that your job as a manager is to care for the needs and success of your people, the importance of a check-in becomes clear. 

If you aren’t in touch with what is going on with each of your people to know what they need and where they have challenges, how can you support them? 

That’s what makes the check-in the most powerful tool in management. An effective check-in involves having the most important conversations with your people so you can be the manager they need.  

Here’s how an effective check-in works. It starts with asking the right question. 

Here’s a simple, powerful question you can use to start a great check-in. 

How are you today, on a scale from 1 to 10?

The scale is the magic here. When we ask someone how they are without it, what do they say? 

Fine. Busy. Or, as my son likes to say, “decent.” These words tell us nothing. 

With the scale, a simple number tells you a whole lot. There’s a major difference between someone who says they are a 9 versus a 2. Either way, it’s an invitation to have a meaningful conversation. 

If someone says they are at the top end of the scale, ask them to share what’s been going well lately. You’ll learn about them and what matters to them. This is your chance to be excited for them and even to celebrate their accomplishments. 

If they are on the bottom end of the scale, that’s a cry for help. Ask them if they’d be comfortable sharing what’s going on that’s pulling that number down. It could be a work challenge but more likely, it’s something else going on in their life.  

Regardless of what it is, that is the thing you need to be focused on. Hear them out, express your care and support, and find a way to help.

If their response to the question is something in the middle, say a 5, it sets up a great conversation. Ask them first what’s going well. Listen and be encouraging. 

Then, ask them what’s going on that is keeping them from being at a 9 or 10. This is where they will share with you the insights you need to be supportive and caring.  

Done right, the check-in will transform your impact and results as a manager. It is caring in action. 

Managing = Caring

These are but a few ways to start investing more in caring for your team. 

There are a lot of ways to care. The key is to feel it and do it. Without caring, you cannot and will not be a successful manager in today’s environment. 

Care intensely. Care often.

Care. 

 

Rather watch than read? 

If you prefer video over reading, here you go. (Bonus points if you can spot my son)

 

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