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As a leader, dealing with an associate who marches around the office shouting “I don’t care” would be a simple problem to fix right? It might not be painless, but it would be easy. But the issue is not as easy as someone marching around the office, telling you and everyone else they do not care. What you witness more often are employees who do the minimum, follow processes as written as opposed to the spirit by which they were created, and consider the problems they face each day as sabotage as opposed to the opportunity enable employees. These situations are often very subtle, and the fix is more behavioral. Creating a culture of caring is about looking at the characteristic of caring from the employee’s perspective and how this impacts the relationship with everyone they meet.
As leaders, it is important that we recognize when our traditional approaches to creating a culture of caring, or employee engagement, don’t quite reach the goals we had laid out. The goal is the same, but our approach was more similar to how we spread a vision, or a goal. We wrote it down, mentioned it many times, branded it, etc. All of these efforts are honorable and genuine but may not have hit the emotional level to move the caring, or emotional, needle for our employees.
I am certain you have heard of the term employee engagement. You probably cringed when I said that as this is part of the corporate vernacular these days. If you are not familiar with the term employee engagement, here’s a definition that resonated well with me:
“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”—Kevin Kruse, Forbes
Pretty simple, and it gets to the heart it.
The benefits of having a team of IT service professionals who care or who are engaged has limitless benefits. I also believe the benefits go beyond the typical efforts we take on as leaders. Our typical focus is around user experience, reducing problems, change management, etc., hard lines we can easily measure. A culture of caring breeds a relationship-focused organization that turns a transactional function into one of partnership. With this partnership comes trust and confidence in the team’s abilities.
If you think of your department as a business, you would never get very far if your customers did not trust in your services. Caring about what we do, how we do it, and relationships we build and cultivate along the way are essential. Caring about your work and the company you work for is an emotional commitment—it is engagement. You won’t just have someone who is loyal or who is generally happy every day, you will have someone who thinks about ways to improve him\herself, the team, or the organization. Putting themselves in the shoes of their customer will be part of their fabric, not just a perspective they have to consider.
Let’s talk about gaining visibility to what is holding you back from having a culture of caring. Have you read the book The Truth About Employee Engagement?” In this book, Patrick Lencioni talks about three attributes that make up job misery: irrelevance, immeasurement, and anonymity. Although all three of these are relevant to the topic of engagement, anonymity is what we will focus on. Lencioni states “All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
How often do you have discussions with your employees about what they like and dislike most about their job? How often do you have a discussion with your team, not just your direct reports, about what motivates them outside the office? If you do these things, or capture this information in some fashion, what do you do with it? Having these details provides that visibility we have been talking about, but also lets us, as leaders, gain a glimpse into the motivations, desires, and interests of our team. It’s not an exercise to see what our employees want and to then give them everything. It’s about finding ways to empower our employees, understand how their interests, motivations, and skills align with what we, as leaders, have written as our vision, and finally to identify ways to give our team the ownership in service. This is the perspective change I talked about earlier. Sound exciting? Here is the culture of caring recipe I have used.
As you can see, the approach to changing the culture is about starting with the employee and connecting at an emotional level. This will be the key to imparting change within the culture. I am certain this approach will provide you, as leaders, the visibility you need, along with demonstrating a culture of caring within your team. It has always been amazing to take a step back to see how this has benefitted my organization, and in a very short time you will be able to do the same.
Kevin Kwasiborski is an 18-year IT veteran with more than 15 years’ experience leading teams around IT service and asset management. He has worked in several industries from B2B to healthcare to consumer electronics. His professional passions are people, technology, and learning new things. Kevin focuses on leading by example, being humble, driving a culture of optimism, and inserting crazy wherever possible. Personally, his biggest passion is his family.
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