Employees need to know you care

“They won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” I don’t know who said it, but it certainly rings true. If I asked your employees if you cared about them, what would they say? You might think, “Of course, I care about them! They know that.” But do they? The pressures most leaders are under can manifest in abrupt conversations, rushed delegation, and less face time. From the employee’s perspective, that can start to look like the work matters more than they do.
Over time, the interpersonal glue that holds an employee to a leader—and to a company- -can start to disintegrate. 
Here are some scenarios to think about. What would you do?         
  • You are short of time and you are supposed to be introducing a new Human Resources policy to your team. It will affect how they schedule vacations. Do you forward the email from HR and tell your staff to come to you with questions, or do you discuss it with them?
Even though face time is at a premium, a dialogue is going to save you time and aggravation in the long run. You could make it an agenda item for your staff meeting. 
  • Your team is pretty experienced and it’s a good thing. New projects are coming at your department faster than you can manage them all. People have been complaining about “being meeting-ed to death,” on these projects, so you decided to cancel your team’s staff meeting.
Whoa! This might be the worst time to cancel the one forum you have where the group can get together and discuss department problems, company happenings and collaborate on how the work gets done. Rather than cancel it, why not shorten it and focus it? Ask them how to make the staff meeting a truly value-added session that would help them manage their work. 
  • You’re in meetings most of the day and you know you should probably get out more but you just don’t have time. Do you skip it and hope everyone understands? Do you walk through different areas when you get to work, so that you can informally chat with people? Do you set up an “open door” time, so that people know when they can come in and ask questions?
Setting up “open office hours” is an effective way many leaders make themselves available, but most people won’t want to bother you. And walking through different areas of the department is a quick way to at least be visible if someone wants to grab you for a quick question, but most people find it results in small talk (which is okay but not always productive).
But if you really want to use your time effectively, and make sure you are giving your key employees the direction and coaching they need, set up short, regular one-on-one sessions with them. If they know they have you all to themselves on a regular basis, they don’t need to interrupt you as often. And the quiet ones don’t end up feeling ignored or lost. It’s a great way to stay on top of what they are working on and also to build some reliability into your schedule.  
  • You are the leader of a project team that includes a number of stakeholders from different departments. You have a lot of other projects and you are growing frustrated with the slow progress the group is making. You try to facilitate participative project meetings but the group seems resistant. Do you push through the solution you want? Do you take on more of the project work outside of the meetings, so something gets done? Or, do you go at their pace, in the hope they will start making more progress?
If you continue at their pace, your frustration is likely to show, which won’t help the group be open with you. Pushing through your own solution will probably backfire—feet dragging, or outright resistance and anger may result.
A better approach may be to put the issue on the table and talk about the slow progress. What are you seeing? Why are you frustrated? Do they need more directives from above? Do they need more information? What are they worried about or afraid of? An honest conversation may expose key elements that will help you break the log jam and get the project moving faster. If you don’t think the group will talk, schedule individual meetings with them and get their insight and advice. Bring your conclusions back to the group and discuss what to do about it.
You might be thinking, “I’m so busy I can’t schedule one-on-ones, or have staff meetings, or meet people to identify their resistance.” I recommend offloading other things, to make time for the things that will help your work go smoother and keep your employees happier. Time to look at what you can delegate…

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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