Enhance Your Value
Help others understand how to live up to expectations.
Overcome the 'us' versus 'them' suspicions that can existMany of the most successful Caregivers have developed into wonderful storytellers, even though for some it didn’t come naturally. Now they’re not spinning yarns about funny weekend barbecue mishaps, but instead they’ve learned to highlight the efforts of their team members by capturing and retelling meaningful stories of personal achievement, innovation, and customer service.
Take the story told at a manufacturing company of an employee who was put on a plane from the United States to Japan to deliver a product worth a few hundred dollars because it was going to be late for a big client and never-miss-delivery was the number one priority in the firm. That’s not a warm-and-fluffy story; it’s the kind that is told around the break room for years after to make a point. Would there be any doubt how important on-time delivery is to the teammates who heard that? Would they go back to work determined to get the order they were working on out on time? Most likely. Good stories enable the listener to put vague behaviors in a real context, and understand what has to be done to live up to expectations. Storytelling also helps Caregivers overcome the “us” versus “them” suspicions that can exist between team members and their bosses.
Extensive studies show the most successful leaders are the ones with the highest scores for "caring," "affection," and/or "empathy,” and good storytelling is filled with empathetic examples. These so-called soft practices are core leadership skills and are therefore a serious business tool. Staff meetings should not only be filled with talk about numbers and projects, but someone on the team should be tasked with sharing a quick, specific customer story that happened in the last few days—even if it’s impromptu. It may be a small or routine challenge they faced, but it becomes instructive as the person talks about the customer’s specific need, how the client felt at the beginning of the interaction, how the employee specifically helped that person, and the effect it had on the customer’s day or business.
When Caregivers themselves make a regular practice of sharing such specific, teaching anecdotes, they help everyone on the team understand that the customers they serve are flesh and blood individuals, and that means they’ll be more likely to treat those clients with more caring and compassion. Great Caregiver leaders know an organization’s customer experience will never exceed the experience they create for their employees. Service is a cycle that starts inside and moves outward.
Focus on tasks and people.
Become task-oriented as well as people-orientedMost Caregivers say they like working with people; they are easygoing, empathetic, and caring. And for that reason they can be important assets to any team. But some Caregivers admit they are not as good at structure and details as they are at the people-side of the business.
To add the greatest value, the most successful Caregivers say they had to learn to become task-oriented as well as people-oriented. That might mean they learned to put together spreadsheets to track project minutiae, had to block set times to work that wouldn’t be interrupted, or became students of their business, its products, and its strategy. Task-oriented people tend to think about “things,” while many Caregivers think about “feelings.” People-oriented Caregivers “sense,” while task-oriented individuals deal in “facts.”
Caregivers shouldn’t lose their vital emotional intelligence, but many of those in this identity who were lacking on the task side of the ledger say they got further in their careers by developing a few more practical skills, asking logical questions, and enhancing their business sense. The point is this: Caregiving skills can be valuable, and those who are able to communicate and build relationships are often seen by upper management as more confident, trustworthy, and better able to work with others.
But if a Caregiver doesn’t rack up accomplishments to go with their good communication abilities, some high-performing team members around them could begin to see them as loquacious time-wasters or even blusterers. Caregivers are most successful when they set regular performance goals for themselves and know now and then when to turn off their friendly natures to simply get those things done.
Ensure recognition is tailored and commensurate.
Create frequent, public celebrations of successCaregivers are often good at remembering to appreciate others, but a few have developed a bad habit of giving out one-size-fits-all praise and rewards. One Caregiver boss studied made sure everyone in her department was rewarded with a bag of M&Ms when they’d done something worthy of recognition. That was nice. But the trouble was it didn’t matter if the worker had picked up the phones for an hour or saved a million-dollar client from bolting, everyone got the same bag of chocolates.
When asked if more commensurate recognition wouldn’t be more meaningful in some cases, she got defensive and said, “When it’s a really big deal, I put a bow on the bag.” Oh, well, there you go. In contrast, the best Caregivers take the time to get to know the people in their care as individuals—whether they are teammates or employees—and find ways to reward them that are not only meaningful but tailored to what matters most to them and proportionate to their achievements. These great leaders create frequent, public celebrations of success with sincere words that don’t just motivate that lone team member, but all in attendance. They create a climate where the entire team celebrates each other’s successes and feels supported in their efforts to achieve. As such, they ensure that everyone on their team stop what they’re doing and focus entirely on the message of recognizing success—even if customers are there.
Care by walking around.
Everything the team does should relate back to missionJim Kouzes and Barry Posner put a new twist on an old concept when they talk about “caring by walking around.” Caring leaders (or caring teammates for that matter) take time to notice what their teammates are doing, and not just what they’re doing “right” or “wrong.” More important is getting to know their team’s attitudes, motivations, and strategies to accomplish big things.
The most effective Caregivers strive to help their teammates understand how everything the team does should relate back to mission, goals, and standards of behavior. And armed with this understanding, they help each person on the team move closer, much faster, to what matters most. The time Caregivers spend with others in this way shows that they value their teammates as real people, and their teammates aren’t just a means to an end. It also shows they have faith in their abilities to succeed. “The best leaders," Kouzes and Posner write, “have a special radar that picks up positive signals.”
Solve more problems.
The larger the problems they address, the more valuableThe purpose of every profession is to solve some type of problem. People dial in to a credit card call center to get an errant charge removed, visit an emergency room to set a broken limb, go to a grocery store to alleviate empty shelves and looming hunger. Wages offered in any industry are generally proportional to the degree of difficulty and complexity of the problems that the people who work there must solve on a daily basis. The more problems an individual solves, and the larger the problems they address, the more valuable they are to their employer, the higher their salary, and the greater their importance in the company. That’s why typically the quarterback makes more money than the lineman who protects him, the surgeon more than a general practitioner, and the manager more than an employee.
In today’s employment climate, harried leaders have little patience for those who don’t solve problems. The most successful Caregivers not only are good fixing people problems, but also increase their value by being those who quietly and efficiently fix tactical problems and take ownership of thorny work issues. We all should develop an attitude about fulfilling assignments like Martin Luther King Jr. describes: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.”
Help identify other Caregivers.
Caregivers are usually more in tune to finding like-minded soulsFinding truly empathetic employees with fun, positive outlooks isn’t easy, but fellow Caregivers are usually more in tune to finding like-minded souls and can be extremely helpful in hiring situations.
Here are some questions to ask job candidates to find the Caregivers among the crowd:
- How would you describe the team you work with now? (Listen for positive comments rather than put-downs.)
- How do you deal with tough personalities on your team? (Look for people who are honest about the challenges some teammates can be, and offer strategies about how to best deal with difficult personalities—all while maintaining an overall optimism about the good nature of people in general.)
- How do you size up situations to determine if there might be a problem brewing on your team? Can you describe a time when you had to be flexible with those you work with? (Watch for empathy and an ability to tell stories to show they’ve learned valuable lessons about team dynamics.)
- How would those who work with you describe you? For instance, are you optimistic or questioning, hopeful or realistic? And why would they say those things? (In these answers, the “why” is most important; push them to answer specifically why others would say they are cheerful, confident, etc.)
- Explain a time you made an effort to improve the morale of your workplace. Why did you do it, and how did it go over? (Pay attention to the particular ways they’ve shown concern for their teammates, whether their actions were successful or not isn’t as important as if they made an effort to think about those on their team.)
Make quicker decisions.
Avoid suffering from analysis paralysisWhen facing challenges at work, many of the more effectual Caregivers say their career growth accelerated when they taught themselves to make faster decisions. That meant they committed to understanding the strategic objectives and mission of the company before problems arose. And then, when issues did come up, they fought the natural (empathetic) inclination some in this identity have to weigh every possible concern from every possible stakeholder’s perspective.
The main question to answer is this: of all the possible stakeholders to please or displease, which one is the most important and what would that group want us to do? Instead of trying to socialize a solution that everyone is happy with—and no one really is—some Caregivers have one “anti-me” they turn to regularly, a person who will give it to them straight and offer a divergent but thoughtful point of view. By no means should people under-think decisions, but the point is to avoid suffering from analysis paralysis.
Bring home the fun from work, and vice versa.
Learn to give your best self on the job and at homeA large part of being happy and balanced over the span of a career is learning to give your best self on the job and at home. While it might seem natural that Caregivers would take their fun personalities everywhere they go, some actually unpack the charm in one location but not the other. For instance, perhaps they are outgoing, witty, and personable on the job—their coworkers simply must seek them out each morning to hear the latest buzz, have a good laugh, and sample some of their contagious energy. In the workplace they are tolerant of mistakes and encourage improvement. But by the time they get home they’ve run out of steam. There they have little time for fun and games. Or, conversely, some are the life of the party at the weekend outing with the kids, but at work bring a brand of excruciating seriousness that drains the energy from any room they are in (not realizing that may be hampering their career growth).
The happiest Caregivers give their best at home: smiling daily at their family members, taking it easy on the kids when they bring the car home empty or ding the fender, coming up with creative family night activities each week, and so on. And they give their best at the office: making sure everyone lightens up in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
Set some rules.
Rules should speak in a meaningful way to the membersIn a 350,000-person study for the book The Orange Revolution, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton identified the characteristics of the world’s best teams. One thing they almost all had in common was a set of simple rules they lived by. The authors called the three most common the Rule of 3: Wow, No Surprises, and Cheer.
In other words, the most profitable, productive, breakthrough teams committed to being world class (Wow), communicated openly and honestly with each other (No Surprises), and rooted for each other and had each other’s backs (Cheer). And, they saw, it was often savvy Caregivers who pushed their teams to create people-focused rules like this to live by.
Now, a team’s own set of rules doesn’t have to be the three they discovered, but the rules should speak in a meaningful way to the members, the team’s unique challenges, and the organizational mission. And they should be collaboratively developed, a process Caregivers are naturals at leading.
Maintain a contagious attitude.
Cheerful attitudes are contagiousJust as in everyday life, things can and do go wrong at work. Organizations want employees who are able to not only identify issues but also cheerfully go to work solving them. Some of the most successful Caregivers are counted on by coworkers and leaders because they maintain their naturally positive attitudes in the toughest times. After all, no one wants to be around an Eeyore. Pessimism and negativity in a crisis breed more of the same, but cheerful attitudes are also “contagious.”
Great Caregivers are cognizant about doing little positive things that people notice. They make eye contact and turn their faces and bodies toward people seeking their attention. They listen for true meaning during conversations, and don’t just rehearse what they’re going to say next. They ask probing questions and never allow a computer screen or text message to become more important than a customer’s or coworker’s thoughts and feelings. This fully present policy applies to everyone. Caregivers send a powerful message when they put down their smart phones and interact with colleagues or their employees the way they want them to interact with customers.