In a talent-centric economy like ours today, warmth and caring behaviors from managers increase employee engagement and loyalty, says productivity expert Frank Wander.

"The Great Resignation" is driving home the importance of human caring as a leadership priority. Professionals represent unique threads of aptitude and experience, threads that highly successful leaders weave together to form a closely connected tapestry of mind and emotion. 

We are in a talent-centric economy where winning and losing are ultimately defined by the strength of this tapestry. If the threads are tight, then collaborative innovation can flourish; if they are loose, then relationships are frayed and incapable of producing much business value.

You see, without deep relationships and extensive institutional experience, collective efforts struggle to ignite. Failed ignitions are costly in real terms as teams under produce and under deliver. Moreover, the opportunity cost of innovation that would have happened, but didn’t, slowly erodes the economic viability of any organization. This is why the Great Resignation is so costly, because it strips away highly productive relationships and drains away the institutional knowledge.

IT Staff Retention Starts with Caring

When leaders show they care deeply about others, it spawns a selfless environment where relationships and mutual acceptance take hold. This is a powerful force that stimulates the deep connections that are vital to IT success, because IT is a collaborative endeavor at its root.

Caring is a form of affection appropriate for the workplace, and it is vital if you want to hang onto your people. For a leader, caring is the act of being concerned about the well-being of your workers, not just the work they do. It is the starting point for opening connections that lead to powerful relationships and mutual respect.

Absent this caring, workers feel isolated because no one is interested in them and their success. Consequently, their energy, engagement, and motivation ebb away. That detachment will lead them to search for other opportunities where they will be cared about, nurtured, coached, and grown.

 

"Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another."  
- John C. Maxwell

 

When leaders ignore the human side of business by focusing only on tasks and activities, it degrades organizational effectiveness as individuals recognize that no one cares about them. However, when leaders care about their workers, and show it, team members feel the warmth and connection. This ultimately enables them to embrace the goals of the organization, become engaged and actively contribute to organizational outcomes, because caring is reciprocal. They put down roots, and as they grow, their roots grow deeper too.

There are many types of connection, each one representing higher levels of caring and concern. These include, in order, warmth, kindness, empathy, compassion, and ultimately nurturing. They are best understood as different forms of warmth, from the most basic, “I care about you”, to the strongest, nurturing, where “I want you to flourish”.

 

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Since warmth always precedes connection, caring behaviors are fundamental to building powerful workplace relationships, the kind that displace feelings of social isolation with the warmth of human connection. In the end, each form of caring is a tool, and leaders must use each of these tools to become powerful role models for the entire organization. Does anything matter more? For without connection, the human infrastructure literally unravels.

How to Show People that you Care 

To open the possibility of connection, you must feel sincere respect and appreciation for the other person as an individual. If you don’t, the possibility of connection closes off because humans are powerful social sensors and will feel both rejection and insincerity. For this reason, caring leaders find what is best about others, and do not prejudge them by letting their biases give off a negative vibe. In the end, you evaluate work, but you do not judge the person. Acceptance is a precursor to even warmth.

When caring behaviors are deficient, the absence of warmth engenders distrust, fear, isolation, and a lack of belonging. When a leader does not care about team members, the work environment feels dangerous, and guarded behaviors predominate as workers focus on their own survival. The needs of the organization now move out of focus.

 

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

-Theodore Roosevelt

 

To be perceived as a caring leader, you must lead with sincere warmth; you must take a genuine interest in your workforce and understand their normal mood and expression; you must read facial changes to sense unspoken signals that enable you to accurately tune into positives (e.g., elation, accomplishment, happiness), and negatives (e.g., stress, fear, suffering). And you must react to these signals by sharing your insights with the other person to show you care about them.    

In today’s hypercompetitive economy, caring, prosocial, unselfish, cultures will predominate because they unlock the full human potential needed to win. Every IT leader must master the human side of IT so that they can keep their best people and win.

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