Leaders Care About Their Team

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Leaders must take a genuine interest in their people. For a good leader, building up the team is high on the list. So how can you show that you care? Here is a basic framework:

Connect

Have more frequent, intimate and meaningful conversations about what it is you and your team do, and the value you and your team bring to the organization. Show people the big picture more often. Share any external feedback you get from people you serve, good and bad. Let people know you have their back and appreciate them. Tell them, show them, encourage them, thank them. Do it in person and do it in writing.

When we’re more connected to each other personally, we feel safe in our work environment. When your team feels it’s safe to show up and fully be themselves, they’re more productive. They know it’s OK for them to bring their concerns, their strengths, their vulnerabilities and their creativity to their job. Trust me: you want this and it’s precisely why you ought to work hard to show you care. It’s how your people will know you have their back and that you will stand by them.

Your relationship with your team, and their relationships with each other, is incredibly important to creating an environment people are drawn to and don’t want to leave. Connecting with people is how we learn more, inspire more and encourage people to make more useful things happen.

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Make it a point to let people know you’re interested in them, professionally and personally. Ask them how you can help them with an issue they’re facing on a project or with a goal. Allow them to share more about those personal things they’re interested in. Do it in person when possible but also virtually with email and text.

Connecting the Dots

Do you want healthier future leaders? You’ve got to involve them more in solving the challenges you face. Help each person who works for you to see the difference they make. They’ll be more invested in the work and achieving the big goals.

Ask people more frequently to give you their thoughts on things, good and bad. Ask them how they would change things if they were running the show. Ask your people what they believe their impact is in the organization. Whenever possible, let your people lead the effort to make something special happen. Let them see things from your vantage point, so they’re better informed and have a better chance at solving problems with you and eventually without you.

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Sit down with your team and create a list of the things each of you would like to see more of at your organization. This practice will help people feel more involved and encourage more commitment to the effort.

Practice Empathy

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experiences of others. Empathy is more than sympathy, which is being able to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity. Leaders today need to be more person-focused and be able to work with those not just in the next office, but also with those in other buildings. Giving time and attention to others fosters empathy, which in turn enhances your performance and improves your perceived effectiveness.

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Teach listening skills. To understand others and sense what they are feeling, leaders must be good listeners. Skilled listeners let others know they are being heard, and they express an understanding of concerns and problems. When a leader is a good listener, people feel respected, and trust can grow. Listen to hear the meaning behind what others are saying. Pay particular attention to nonverbal cues. The emotion expressed non-verbally may be more telling than the words people speak. Focus on tone of voice, pace of speech, facial expressions and gestures.

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Rusty Vineyard is the executive director of recreation and well-being at the University of Idaho.

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