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Can managers be taught to care about their people?

WRITTEN BYJames Price | JPAbusiness

Construction workers on building site

"Great business leaders truly care about their people as much as they care about the output their people produce."

That's the view of international executive coach Kevin Catlin. In our ebook, Surfer dudes, janitors and the Ritz-Carlton, we asked Kevin:

Q. Can a business leader be 'taught to care' about their people?

KEVIN: Yes and no, but I am not certain they have to in most organisations. Let me clarify…

If it is true that to coach you have to care – and it is – it is not true that to get results you have to care.

There are a lot of managers out there who are productive without caring about their people very much.

They mix up mental toughness and drive – which are compelling and honourable – with squeezing the lifeblood out of their people. Short-term gain, long-term pain in terms of:

  • staff turnover;
  • uninspired 9-to-5 employee mentalities, and
  • poorly functioning teams.

People quit their managers far more than they quit their companies. Companies don’t even know the costs, they just remain less viable and less profitable.

In their defence, I often see managers who are simply unaware of how they impact people. Once they find out, and are taught how to ‘care’, they can flourish.

Also, intelligent or especially driven individuals can be tricky in that they have been given kudos their entire lives for their ability to produce, or for their personal intelligence and capabilities. Put these guys in a situation where they have to produce through others and it can be a train wreck. They reach their limits because they are incapable of moving people. They are incapable of making others trust them. They get to a certain point, and then they get found out.

If they want to learn to care, they can, but if they don’t want to change there is nothing you can do.

Q. What makes a good business leader?

KEVIN: The great leaders truly care about their people as much as they care about the output their people produce.

The most astute leaders, in my opinion, understand something that seems a little counterintuitive, and that is that if you’re checking daily on the output of your company – on what it is ‘doing’ – then you’re wasting time.

What you’re company is ‘doing’ is really a lagging indicator of what you’re people are capable of.

Whether you are measuring how much fish you sold that day, or how delighted the guests are at your hotel, or how satisfied your riders are on your buses, they are all lagging indicators.

Leading indicators include:

  • how connected to your company’s wellbeing people are feeling;
  • how they feel about their connectedness to the company;
  • how they feel they are making a difference.

I ask leaders to be very clear on caring about the wellbeing of their people. It sounds a little worn, but it is a very important aspect of what great leaders do.

Kevin Catlin podcast image

Hear more from Kevin Catlin on my Let's Talk Business podcast. You can also follow Kevin on LinkedIn, or check out his Insight Strategies blog.

If you would like advice or support about any aspect of business management – including leadership and developing a positive business culture – contact the JPAbusiness team on 02 6360 0360 or 02 9893 1803 for a confidential, initial discussion.

About James Price | JPAbusiness James Price has over 30 years’ experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients. James’ blogs provide business advice for aspiring and current small to mid-sized business owners, operators and managers.