If you’ve ever completed a personality assessment, you’ve discovered that you are either people-oriented or task-oriented. An orientation towards people indicates that you make decisions based on intuition and that under stress you are likely to focus on the feelings of others, while an orientation towards tasks indicates that you make decisions based on facts and logic, and that under stress you are likely to focus on the process in order to drive productivity. And, if you’ve ever completed that personality assessment in a workshop or seminar, you’ve been reminded that both sides of this coin are good; we need both in our workplaces to create a sense of balance.
Often, leaders will cite that their focus is people, that the priority is people, process, and then profits. This sounds good, feels good. However, if people were polled, they may not respond that those are indeed the priorities in the workplace. If we as leaders state that people are the priority, how do we prove it?
We commit to care.
Commitment is a pledge to a certain course of action (Merriam Webster, 2017). When we commit, we devote ourselves to the recipient of our commitment. If our commitment is to caring for and about others, we pledge to focus on people first. We choose to invest in people, to learn their names and ask about their lives. We recognize achievements publically and provide feedback privately. We talk with people at all levels within our organizations because we value the contributions that each person makes on our behalf, regardless of their title.
To care is to feel concern or interest; to provide what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something (Merriam Webster, 2017). Leadership indicates that we feel concern or interest; however, care can be towards someone or something. When faced with difficult situations, it can be easy to revert to caring about processes or profits under the guise that people want a paycheck more than a friend. Yes, employees want to earn a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families; however, we also know that people will work for lower wages if they feel cared for, valued, and connected to their organizations. Our challenge as leaders is to focus our concern on people first, and to do so genuinely and consistently. As we do so, we become willing to invite employees into our world as well, to share some of the stressors and burdens and allow them to assist in finding solutions that affect our processes and profits.
Caring about others is time-consuming. It may require that we set aside our own agenda in order to listen. It may mean that we walk through our workplaces and have a brief conversation with employees that is not about productivity or task lists. It necessitates an emotional investment in others, in who they are and how they feel. Caring about others may not feel comfortable, but doing so will positively influence our organizations.
The leadership lesson? Commit to caring for others, for those we lead, in order to create a culture that demonstrates the priority of people, process, and then profits.