What Makes a Great People Manager? Part 3: Empathizer

Any great leader will tell you they have great love...love for their purpose, cause or mission, love for their community, love for their organization that helped to live out their collective "Why" in the world and love for the people and lives entrusted to them.

Care, concern and love is at the root of great leadership and being a great people leader is much like parenting. If you don't love people, then please don't be a people manager. You will only make your life and the lives of others much more painful and difficult than need be.

When you love someone you want the best for them. Like with parenting (which I'm sure you've caught on I use a lot as an example because it's universal and leadership in parenting is so much like leadership in organizational life), we want to see our kids grow to be happy, healthy, well adjusted, productive, successful contributing members of society. We want them to be good humans.

Well we have the same opportunity and responsibility with members of our teams and organizations. When we want the best for them we help them not only grow in their job and career so they can help the organization live out its "Why" better and better but we can also help them grow and thrive as people too.

Find The Balance

The hard part about love and care and concern for you team is finding the exact right balance. On one end is overcaring and on the other is caring too little.

Caring Too Little

This is at the core of what most of us have probably felt from a manager that we did not enjoy working with. They didn't care. If you've experienced that, I'm sorry. Whether we realize or admit it or not, it affects us. And everyone deserves to be loved and cared for, especially by those closet to us or who we depend on. And our manager is up there with the most impactful. It's up to them, and us, as to what extent.

Bob Chapman is a CEO of an American manufacturing company called Berry Wehmiller and he is leading the way at showing what a company led through love, care and concern for its people first and foremost can do for people, community and business. The story is incredible and I highly recommend his book, Everybody Matters.

Caring Too Much

This is where it may be inappropriate, like letting a personal relationship get in the way of making essential decisions for the good of the entire team of organization. Or where misguided concern could mean we take on too much of a others' emotions or problems or when we shield them from any pain or discomfort. In parenting, this is called being a "helicopter parent" and man is it hard for me not to do.

When we do this, as leaders or parents, we make them unintentionally inept at thinking or solving their own problems and by solving all of their problems, we burn ourselves out.

Below is a visual that shows what I'm describing.

How Do We Care "Just Right"?

The goal is to be an empathetic coach, mentor and consultant.

Don't Just Hear, Listen

This is called empathetic listening. It means, take away the distractions, and fully engage in fully hearing, understanding actually what someone is saying and all the things they aren't saying, meaning in their tone and body language. This is tough. It requires real energy to do nothing but sit there and take it all in.

One suggestion before going into an important and/or potentially difficult or emotional conversation is to take some time beforehand to mediate, clear your mind and focus. Also, work to suspend judgment and just focus on listening and understanding.

Be Genuinely Curious

If you love people, then it should come natural to you to be genuinely curious about them. Everyone's story is so unique that if you as the leader just regularly ask people lots of questions from the place of learning about and from them, I'm sure you'll be blown away. I know I am the more I learn about my team.

Show Them You Love Them

I once told my wife that I love her so that's good enough right? Of course not! Say it everyday! Show it in signs of affection, doing things she likes to do and in gifts and signs of appreciation.

The same goes for the people we are responsible for. Simon Sinek points out in his book Leaders Eat Last, that we all long for a sense of belonging and that our work is valued and is part of something bigger than us. Our role as leaders is to regularly shine a light on that.

We've all heard the adage that people need to hear something 7 times before they believe it. Especially when it comes to positive versus negative reinforcement. So say good things about and to your team all the time!

When we care, the rest of leadership comes very naturally.

Moving on to Part 4

Part 4 is will be about communication. Individual, team and building systems of communication. So be on the look out next Friday.

Thanks for reading!


Devin Craig



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