We were at the point in the workshop when participants begin feeling uncomfortable. One participant raised his hand and stated, “John, call me a little old school, but I refuse to know my people on a personal level or treat them anything like my family because the day might come when I have to let them go. I don’t want to make it awkward or deal with the feelings of having to let go of someone I care a lot about.”

While on the surface, his logic made sense, he couldn’t have been more wrong. The best leaders build trust with their people. Part of that trust is knowing they are cared for and loved by their boss. Yes, I used the word love, but not in any HR violation kind of way. Love is a component to elevate other people which is critical to be a successful leader today. I define love in Building the Best as “to contribute to someone’s long-term success and well being.”

Don’t just take my word for it. Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. While recognition is essential, there is an additional 20% jump by in performance by showing your people you care for them. 

How to Show You Care

For your team to understand how much you care about them, you must reject the notion that words hold great power. In this case, talk is cheap. Your power comes from your actions. These actions can come in two fairly obvious forms:   

Make time. Like all great relationships, the only way to build them is by dedicating time. A mentor of mine told me, “Kids spell love T-I-M-E.” The same is true in showing your team you care about them. While the amount of time can help, it’s not always about the length of time you spend but choosing to be being present during the time together. It could be as simple as a text message between meetings or putting your phone away during lunch together.  

Know Them On a Personal Level. Just like the participant in Building the Best workshop, you might be uncomfortable with this one. The time to get comfortable with it is now. It isn’t complicated, and it also doesn’t mean you have to be friends. Simply ask questions about a person’s journey, experiences, challenges, and career aspirations. When they talk, LISTEN. Recalling the details of your conversations with them proves you listened and care about them. 

Pro Tip: If you have a larger team, create a spreadsheet to record the names of their significant other, hobbies, interests, passions, favorite things, and dreams of the individuals on your team. Keep it updated and handy, so you can be in tune with things going on in their life inside and outside of work. 

The Less Obvious Way to Show You Care

One of my first professional jobs was working for my dad. While those years were rocky, he did something with me constantly that showed how much he cared. He challenged me. 

While his methods for challenging me could be argued, I had little doubt he cared about me because he knew I was capable of more. By challenging me to raise my game, he showed me he cared (even if I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time.)

Challenging people is so important because it’s human nature to only stretch ourselves to the point where we feel discomfort. Often it takes someone challenging us to go further or reach higher for it to become a reality. 

Here is the key, having solid relationships and a strong bond of mutual trust is critical for you to challenge them in order to get a positive response. Below are a few of my favorite times or places to challenge someone on your team to show you care:

  • Their preparation for a big event or meeting
  • Their effort in developing their skills
  • Their focus during a critical time
  • Their ability to think more creatively and innovatively

If you care about your people, then don’t be afraid to challenge them lovingly. 

What are the best ways you have been challenged, or how to do you challenge your people to show them you care?