The most important relationship in any business is that between the boss and employee.
In a major survey of 2 million workers by Gallup, people rated having a caring boss as more important than how much money they earned. Another study by the Harris Association reported that 40 percent of those who rated their supervisor as poor also said they were likely to leave their current position.
The data support an important reality: that people most often leave workplaces due to poor bosses (not the organization). How employees feel about their jobs and organizations has everything to do with how their manager treats them. People who feel cared for and appreciated are more motivated and are better performers. Those with employee-retention concerns need look no further than this critical relationship — and invest in its improvement.
There is little tolerance in today’s workplace for the boss who is a bully, insensitive or dictatorial. It is, in fact, a leading cause of career derailment. Successful organizations recognize the high cost of the emotional wake of the non-caring and out-of-touch manager. Unchecked, the command/control approach has the potential for creating a tidal wave of exiting talent that few organizations can afford.
Unfortunately, I run across a surprising number of managers with these traits in my executive coaching practice (most have been identified as “problems” and are seeking help). Sadly, most are unaware of their impact on their employees and peers. “360s” or peer reviews are often illuminating. They often lack self-awareness and seem oblivious to how they have contributed to the problem. When challenged, they are quick to blame others, rarely stopping to look in the mirror. Part of my job as a coach is helping them do just that.
In contrast, caring (or emotionally intelligent) managers are typically self-aware, optimistic and tuned in to their people in a way that conveys sensitivity and concern. These are the bosses that bring out the best in their people by:
- Paying attention. They read their emotional cues for signs of anxiety, fear and defensiveness and then act accordingly.
- Remaining connected even during difficult interpersonal interactions. Instead of pulling away, threatening, avoiding or “defending,” they are authentic and genuine about how they are feeling (even to the point of vulnerability).
- Responding with empathy and sensitivity when their people are hurting.
- Being more positive than negative (preferring the carrot to the stick). They are careful when offering critical feedback (focusing on the behavior versus making it “personal”).
- Recognizing effort (not expecting perfection) and using mistakes/failures as learning opportunities versus a cause to punish, belittle and/or embarrass.
- Providing support (even when challenging poor decisions) and communicating clear expectations for changed behaviors moving forward.
To work on improving being perceived as a more “caring” boss:
- Become a better observer. Focus on how you affect others (watch for nonverbal cues). When you notice signs of trouble (body posture turned away, crossed arms, frowns, pursed lips or sudden silence), check in and ask what’s going on for them. Find out if some word or action of yours might have been misunderstood.
- Be alert to your own nonverbals — the cues you may give off that convey, “I’m not interested” (sighs, looking at your watch, not looking up from your computer when the employee walks in).
- Seek feedback on how your interpersonal leadership style is working (or not). Ask what they want more of (or less of) from you. Given most employees’ natural reluctance to give bosses critical feedback, you must ask in a way that conveys that you sincerely want to know. How you react when they tell you will determine whether or not they ever tell you again. If you shoot the messenger or get defensive, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.
- Strive to offer more positive than negative comments. Most leaders are too stingy with praise. University of Washington relationship guru John Gottman recommends a 5-1 ratio of positive to negative comments to improve personal relationships.
- Turn off that ego voice in your head that quickly wants to judge and weigh in with, “I disagree,” or “I know what’s best.” Consider that how you are perceived by your people may at times be more important than being “right.”
- Listen well. Most bosses I see are impatient and interrupt others in their zeal for quick action. I have never heard a boss criticized for listening too much!
Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and coaching abilities. I coach leaders all over the world via Skype. Call me: 360 682 5807 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org