Leading Direct Reports to Care More


For regular readers of this blog, you know that I often get my material from real-world situations that come directly from engagements I am working on.caring-leadership

This week I was conducting a business leadership simulation workshop and one of the scenarios in the best practices simulation was focused on the leadership challenges of managing a team of people who may have “checked out” after going through a significant amount of change. During the debriefing discussion one of the participant leaders shared something quite profound that got me thinking:

“The way I see it, when dealing with direct reports in a large organization there are two types of employees, those who really care about the business and their careers, and those that don’t. But what I always wonder about is this…is that caring built into the structure of the business or is the structure of the business built into the people that care. If I can unlock that mystery, I think I would be a much better leader.”

It’s a very interesting conundrum. We processed it and the discussion yielded some nice learning points I am pleased to share.

What Comes First Caring or Structure?

The first thing I needed to do to drive this conversation was to further clarify the key issues the leader was making. He described it by saying he wonders what comes first, employees who naturally care about and take pride in their work, or a structure of a business that helps drive an employee to care. The conclusion of the group, and I agree, is that it must be an equal balance between inherent caring and creating the right environment to care.

5 Tips to Help Create an Environment to Get Employees to Care More

After the rich discussion about finding the right balance between people who naturally care and creating an environment to care, we had a great dialogue around ways leaders can create a better environment that encourages employees to want to care (or want to care more).

Create an Environment of Trust

The best thing you can do as a leader is to be humble, transparent, and trusting of your team. Trust means that you encourage them to take risks, explore, fail, learn, and return.

Communicate and Manage Expectations

The only way to generate true engagement which in turn builds more employees caring is to proactively manage your communications and expectations of your team. People appreciate being communicated with and appreciate it even more if you are open and transparent about your expectations.

Be Accessible

Don’t hide. Address things straight on even when they aren’t easy to talk about. Be there when your people need you. Coach and give feedback when appropriate.

Generate Opportunities for Growth

Employees who care, are employees who see a future with your business. You must go out of your way to make sure that all employees see and understand future opportunities they have for growth and career development.

Provide Positive and Constructive Feedback

An overwhelming majority of the group I was working with felt that this final tip was the most important. They have found employees check out the most when they are not provided with important positive and constructive feedback. There are so many ways and methodologies of doing this and your company may already prescribe to a coaching methodology that is comfortable and creates a positive culture and motivation for success.

In summary, one of the foundational elements of leading is to develop and nurture new employees so they will care about the business. There are several ways of doing this and I hope the tips that came from my session will be helpful.


Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.