Recently I sent a text to a friend asking how her husband was doing in a very stressful work situation. Moments later she phoned in tears and thanked me for caring. She was upset that the organisation he worked for didn’t seem to care about him as a person, or the effect on their family, of the difficult work pressure he was under. As an Asian, working in an Asian organisation, she expected more.
The same week another friend lamented about her supervisor and the lack of engagement and caring that she had hoped she could expect in her new work environment. As an American, working for an American organisation, she expected more.
Know the condition of your flock is the first principle in the management book ‘The Way of the Shepherd’ (Leman & Pentak). Not just knowing the status of their work, but knowing your people personally and genuinely caring about them.
This principle seems so simple, it’s not rocket science, and yet for both of my friends, from different cultures, working in different contexts, they are yearning for this missing aspect. They want to feel cared for as individuals, to be known as real people with genuine needs.
So how do you really engage with the people working for you and with you? The answer – ask lots of questions. Ask open questions, sincere questions, and then listen well to the answers. People will know how much you care by the questions you ask and quality of your listening. And then follow-up, ask again in a few days about the family matter they shared, or the concern they are facing at home. Be intentional about engaging with your staff, not only on work matters, but as people and individuals with lives that go beyond the work hours.
Question to ponder: How would your staff currently describe your level of care?