Leadership: Caring for the people is part of the job

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Someone once described my father as a man who “trails smiles in his wake.” Mike was like that. When he walked around his business, people were genuinely glad to see him. If they weren’t smiling when he showed up, they were usually smiling when he left. My mentor, Leonard, was different.

Leonard’s style was more impatient and gruff. We joked that he managed by prowling around. Personally, he couldn’t have been any more different from Mike, but they were both great bosses, they just did their work in different ways. They both made sure that the job got done and they both showed that they cared for the people who worked for them.

Every Boss Has Two Jobs

In the Marines, I learned that when you’re responsible for a group, you have two jobs. One of them is to accomplish the mission. The other is to take care of the people.

Most people understand the idea of getting the job done, making your numbers, and so forth. What they have trouble understanding is that different personal styles still can take care of the people.

Caring for the People is Something You Must Do

There are several ways that you go about caring for the people. This is not something that you feel, it’s something you do. You may do it naturally. That’s good, but if you don’t do it naturally you must make a conscious effort.

Care for the people by keeping them safe.

That means keeping them safe from you and your moods and biases. It means keeping them safe from The Powers That Be and organizational stupidity that rains on you from above. Keep them safe from each other by attending to group problems right away.

Care for the people by helping them succeed.

Give them the resources they need to do their jobs, including training and coaching. Help them learn to build on their strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant. Prepare them for whatever comes next.

Care for the people by helping them work together and become a better team.

Just as individuals must learn the skills to be effective, teams must develop skills in working together. Your job as a boss is to help them master those skills.

Care for the people by recognizing that they’re human beings for whom work is only part of life.

Honor their time off and family obligations. Cut them some slack when pressures in their personal life affect their performance at work.

Bottom Line

Whether you trail smiles in your wake like Mike, or whether you’re gruff and impatient like Leonard, you can still care for the people. It depends on what you do. Just do it.
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What People Are Saying

Skip Prichard   |   10 Mar 2017   |   Reply

Caring for others is definitely a leadership requirement, and also a human requirement. There’s no higher calling than for us to care for those around us.

Wally Bock   |   10 Mar 2017   |   Reply

Good point, thanks, Skip.

Scott Thompson   |   16 Mar 2017   |   Reply

Hello Wally,

I completely agree with you. There is something to be said for maintaining the well-being of your employees. There are unmeasurable benefits to keeping your employees feeling safe in their workplace and also for your employees to feel that you want them to succeed. A great side effect to this is improved performance in the workplace! By treating your employees as more than just workhorses and acknowledging that they are all individual humans with their own personalities, you improve everyone’s quality of life

Scott Thompson, anticipated graduation May 2017
Freeman School of Business / Tulane University

Wally Bock   |   30 Mar 2017   |   Reply

Thanks for those comments, Scott.