With the January 2017 release of my new book, The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization, the frequency of my speaking events has increased. One of the things I really enjoy about speaking at so many varied events is getting to hear many different stories of people’s experiences at work.
Most recently, I gave a presentation on the importance of organizational health. I talked about the role of caring leadership – the idea that leaders should care at an emotional level about the well-being of their employees.
After my presentation one of the people who came to speak with me talked about her negative workplace culture. Her experience was typical of other stories I’ve heard throughout the years. In her organization, employees experience fear on multiple levels, there are high amounts of toxic conflict, and leadership is either indifferent or complicit in these negative behaviors. Not surprisingly the level of productivity is dismal, and employee turnover is high.
The part of the conversation that really caught my attention is when she told me that she had worked at this organization for close to a year and that her direct supervisor didn’t know she had two children. To be clear, I don’t think it is always appropriate to ask people if they have children. However, when we show even a basic level of interest in people’s lives, if they have children, information about them will almost always come up.
I understand that at a purely academic level, knowing if your employee has children or not has nothing to do with workplace performance and organizational success. However, in practice I have learned that when leaders show a level of interest in their employees’ lives – when they ask questions about their family, their hobbies and their general interests and passions – employees feel more valued, respected and cared for. All of this helps create a healthier workplace. And at a fundamental level I believe that not only are healthy organizations better places to work, but more good work gets done.
One of the easiest things we as leaders can do to increase employee morale is to care about employees. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to show an interest in what is going on in their lives.
For additional insights, be sure to purchase my book, The Ordinary Leader.