November 7, 2018
When I was growing up, my father taught me an important lesson about leadership: People perform better when they care about what they’re doing. It’s a simple idea, but it’s also an idea that tends to be overlooked. Many managers think, I pay these people; isn’t that enough? But we all know that money alone is not enough to truly motivate people and keep them motivated over the long term.
A simple but highly effective way leaders can help people care more about the business is to show that you care about them. Show them that you feel as invested in them as you want them to be in the business. After all, how can you expect people to care about the company when they don’t feel that the company or its leaders care about them?
This goes beyond caring about people’s work and how well they are doing it. It means caring about them as human beings who have lives outside the office. There are a number of ways to show people that you care about them. Here are a few ways to get you started:
Ask people about themselves. Find out about people’s spouses and kids. Learn about their hobbies and interests. This is simple get-to-know-you stuff, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.
In today’s fast-paced world, people too often overlook the basics of establishing solid relationships. Don’t make that mistake no matter how busy you are. You are not just leading roles or leading job functions; you are leading people, and people have lives outside the office.
Show your appreciation. As leaders, we often have to put pressure on people to get things done. You can balance that by also making a point of showing your thanks for how much effort someone is putting in or how much extra time he or she has spent on a project.
Bring doughnuts and coffee the next time team members are in the office early to work on a special project. Or give people an extra day off after they have completed a time-consuming task. Even taking the time to say to someone “I know how hard you worked on this and I wanted to say thank you” can go a long way.
Notice changes in people’s moods or behaviors. When I worked at Young & Rubicam, we brought in an interim CFO after our previous one had left abruptly. It was a difficult time for the company, and we really needed this guy to help us keep the lights on while we did a thorough executive search for a permanent replacement. Our interim CFO knew this, and that was why he felt so conflicted when he found out his new baby grandson was sick. He wanted to be with his family, but he also took the commitment he had made to the company very seriously.
He didn’t say much about his situation, but I could see that something was gnawing at him. He was quieter than usual and often seemed distracted, so I pulled him aside and asked if anything was wrong. His concern about his grandson just spilled out. I immediately suggested he forget about everything in the office for a while and be with his family. I think he really needed someone to tell him it was okay to take care of himself and his family first.
Besides being the right thing to do, that simple act of caring paid off. Everything worked out with his grandson, and when he returned to work, he was more focused than ever. As an added benefit, the rest of the finance department really rallied together to cover for him while he was away. Others find caring about someone and helping them through difficult circumstances to be motivating too.
As I mentioned above, these tips are really just a start. The key is to make sure that you’re authentically showing an interest in people, no matter how you choose to do it. In my experience, it’s a much faster and more fulfilling way to make sure your employees are motivated, and stay motivated in the long run.