How do you feel about difficult conversations? It’s not uncommon if the simple thought of a tough conversation makes your stomach turn. That’s why we’re taking the next few months to talk through some good ways to handle them. However, today, I’m going to have a difficult conversation with YOU (I bet you didn’t see that one coming). Before you close this email, hear me out. I want to talk to you about what I call The Care Perception Gap. The Care Perception Gap refers to the gap between the care you feel toward your team members versus the care they actually experience from you.
While you may think you’re showing your team all the care and appreciation they need, it’s not uncommon for leaders to find out that this care isn’t translating to their employees. Unfortunately, these revelations are usually made when it’s too late and the employee is ready to walk out after feeling unappreciated for too long. Ensuring that your team truly feels cared for requires intentionality. It’s not something that happens by accident. Your team needs to know that you truly care for them as a person, not just as an employee — which can be difficult to communicate. Below are a couple of ways I’ve found to close The Care Perception Gap between leaders and their teams.
How do I demonstrate care to my team?
To zoom in a little more, we’ll talk specifically about how to address situations going on outside the office that are impacting your people on the inside. Oftentimes your team knows you care about their work life, however, if you don’t acknowledge things going on outside of work, it can cause them to feel that they aren’t cared for.
While work takes up a large piece of our time, it’s not the only thing going on in our lives. As a leader, it’s important to recognize that sometimes it’s not possible for people to leave their personal lives at home (especially when so many of today’s employees are actually working from their homes!). We all go through things outside the office that can affect our work, such as financial issues, sick family members, or big family events. So, how do we acknowledge these things with compassion and understanding? I’m not claiming to have the answer to every difficult situation, but below are a couple of examples of how companies communicate care that I’ve seen firsthand.
1. Communicate you care through your actions, and when necessary, use words.
A kind word or thoughtful note is never a bad idea. But consider the greater impact made when accompanied by a tangible gesture of support.
It’s no secret that when COVID-19 hit in 2020, millions of people were impacted financially because of lockdowns and business closures. As many of you know, I have the distinct pleasure of being a co-owner of seven shared workspaces in Atlanta, called Roam. During Covid, we knew some of our team members at Roam were also feeling the financial impact as a result of us having to close our offices for several months, so we created the Roam Family Fund. We set it up as a nonprofit organization where anyone in the company could contribute whatever they could afford. Then these funds were given to team members who needed a little extra help. The leadership and ownership team funded this in a big way and it really allows us to show those on our team that we see their struggle and we care about them and want to help them.
Not only did I love the fact that we, as a team, were helping out our teammates, but it also required all of us to lean in a little more to each other. An initiative like this requires us to be vigilant about finding people who have needs and then meeting them. We encouraged our leaders to pay attention to who might need a little help. We were intentional about listening for who had a broken down car, or a health concern because we want to be proactive about offering support…. and now we have a funding mechanism that can help with that.
2. Don’t sweep it under the rug.
One mistake leaders make when it comes to difficult situations is to simply act like it isn’t happening. Avoiding discussion of uncomfortable topics doesn’t make them go away. It has the opposite effect. I heard someone talk recently about the unsettling feeling they had when they walked into work after the war in Ukraine began. When something so devastating is happening across the world, it feels odd to walk into work as if everything is normal. When she walked into that first meeting of the day with her leadership team, she was shocked and surprised when her CEO asked if they could open the meeting up with prayer for the people of Ukraine. This spoke volumes to her because not only did the leader of her company address the situation that was on everyone’s mind, but he did so in a compassionate and vulnerable way.
I realize that not every company is a Christian company, so in a setting where you have people of multiple faiths or beliefs, an alternate approach could be to open up with a moment of silence or a moment of reflection. This would give people the freedom to pray, think, or meditate on what is going on in a way that makes them most comfortable. This is such a small gesture that can have a great impact and is worlds better than just acting like nothing is happening!
The main takeaway? You must A.C.T.
Communicating care is a meaningful and effective way to fuel your team. Ignoring hard topics doesn’t make them go away — it actually creates an environment where your employees believe you aren’t connected to what’s going on in their world and in the world at large. Simply listening to your team in order to offer tangible support and openly acknowledging challenging realities are two essential ways to navigate difficult situations outside the office that are impacting your people on the inside.
Genuine caring looks like acknowledging the reality, communicating intentionally, and offering tangible support.
T- Tangible Support
While I hope there isn’t a Care Perception Gap in your organization, I challenge you to take time this week to look at how you are demonstrating your care and appreciation to your team. Do you feel there is a gap that needs to be closed? If so, I hope the ideas listed above can help you get started — to ACT.
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Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.
Founder, Spark A Revolution