Acquiring Traits to Become a Caring Manager
As a manager or organizational leader, what you do and say is closely monitored by the people who report to you. Your direct reports focus a lot of attention on you. They care what happens to you, and hope you care about them in return.
Being a caring manager doesn't mean you have to become an intimate friend, confidant, or counselor to every one of your direct reports. It means knowing something more about the people who work for you than just the work they do. It's knowing a little about their histories, current situations, hopes, preferences, and desires. It means paying attention to the things that affect them and that ultimately affect their performance.
As a caring manager, you need to show your direct reports that you're paying the right amount of attention to the things that affect their lives. You can display caring behaviors in several ways:
- by showing your interest in both the work and home lives of your direct reports
- by asking about their plans, problems, concerns, and desires – the things that motivate them
- by listening to the personal problems of your direct reports, as much as is appropriate
- by monitoring your employees' workloads, being aware of the factors that affect them, and recognizing when they invest extra effort
Showing you care about your direct reports will lead to a more positive and productive work environment. You'll be better able to motivate and influence your people because those who know their managers care about them are motivated and work more effectively. If your direct reports believe you care, they'll want to work for you and will see you as a better leader.
Taking the time to find out about the things that affect your direct reports will position you to catch problems before they become serious. If you get to know your employees and the problems they face at home and at work, you'll be better able to remove obstacles and support your employees. You'll be aware of the various forces affecting them and be well positioned to head off problems early.
Obstacles and pitfalls
Being a caring manager isn't easy for everyone. Some managers are less suited to it, either because of their natural orientation or because they're unskilled in displaying the appropriate behaviors. On the other side of the spectrum, some managers are perhaps too skilled at caring behaviors and tend to overuse these skills. As with many things, a good approach lies in finding a balance somewhere between the two.
Managers who are more work and task-oriented may find it difficult to display caring behaviors. They may be so focused on getting the job done that they are simply too busy to spend time learning about their direct reports. Other managers may lack the listening and conversational skills necessary to interact well with their employees. Still other managers may believe that work and personal life can and should be kept separate, failing to recognize and acknowledge the effects that each has upon the other.
Some managers may be less inclined to display caring behaviors simply because they truly don't care much about the personal needs of their direct reports. It's important that this attitude change if they are to adopt the kind of caring behaviors needed to bring out the best in their people. And the behaviors will be of little value if they are not displayed sincerely.
It's important for managers to have a reasonable concern for direct reports in every way possible to help them perform and develop. When people know they are cared for, they give their very best in return – resulting in a productive and positive work environment.
People perform better when they know that their leaders and managers care about them. Some managers are better than others at showing their direct reports that they care. They know how to pay the right amount of attention to both the work and personal lives of their employees. Managers who lack the key caring behaviors must learn to avoid being too task-oriented or too busy to care much about their direct reports. They need to develop better listening skills and recognize that work life and personal life are interrelated, and that both affect performance. At the same time, it's possible to go too far. Overusing caring skills can lead to difficulty being firm and a loss of objectivity, and can result in managers getting too deeply involved in the personal lives of their direct reports.
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