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Dare to care – Kindness and Empathy Wins Hearts and Minds

Reading between the lines, two of the qualities a good coach must have are kindness and empathy. I’m not talking namby-pamby pushover—an empathetic coach also wears steel-toe boots and holds people accountable. He’s equal parts teacher and taskmaster, dreamer and disciplinarian. He’s mastered the “hard” skills of leadership—from strategic planning to managing meetings. But it’s unquestionably the “soft” people skills that help him win hearts and minds. To coach, you have to lead with your heart, not your head. You need to treat people as human beings first, employees second.

All my life, till I was forty-two, I had scoffed at the notion that kindness and empathy were the bedrock on which leadership was built. My faith was in ruthless efficiency and the cold numbers of a balance sheet. Truth be told, I was so tough on people because I lived in constant fear that my business was on the brink of collapse. It never occurred to me that caring about my employees would lead to greater stability and higher profits.

All my life, till I was forty-two, I had scoffed at the notion that kindness and empathy were the bedrock on which leadership was built. My faith was in ruthless efficiency and the cold numbers of a balance sheet. Truth be told, I was so tough on people because I lived in constant fear that my business was on the brink of collapse. It never occurred to me that caring about my employees would lead to greater stability and higher profits.

Praise sticks when it’s personal. Extend the life of your compliment by naming who the smooth moves helped, and why you appreciate it so much. Everyone likes to hear “Hey, nice work.” But to leave a tattoo-like impression, try, “Wow, a heck of a job. That really helped the team and our customers. Thanks for caring enough to make it happen.”

If nothing revs an employee’s motivational motor like positive strokes, why are bosses so miserly about handing them out? A recent Gallup Poll showed that 65 percent of workers received zero recognition for good work in the preceding year. I’ve rounded up seven of the usual suspects:

Not Enough Time

Baloney. It takes ten seconds to light someone’s afterburners. All you have to do is pay attention to what, and who is right in front of you.

They’re Just Meeting Expectations

Seat- of- the- panthers think, What, I’m supposed to congratulate people for doing what I pay them to do? Yes, if you want those results to be repeated, if not eclipsed, and you don’t want employees jumping ship. Don’t wait till they climb over the rail. If someone goes from 70 percent of goal to 78 percent of goal, hey, that’s a reason to celebrate. One of my mottos is, Even if you’re not performing, you get kudos for trending!

Too Touchy-Feely

The sad truth is that relating to an employee on anything resembling a personal level is foreign to a lot of leaders.

The sad truth is that relating to an employee on anything resembling a personal level is foreign to a lot of leaders.

I Get No Reaction

As I discovered with Dorie, raving about an employee to her face can produce deadpan looks. But the praise still makes a huge impact. Tell a child how wonderful he is and he beams. That joy doesn’t fade as we get older; many of us are just too reserved to express it in front of an authority figure.

Don’t Want to Overdo It

Ever hear of somebody overdosing on genuine compliments? Have you ever been fed up with too many? Our appetite for praise is bottomless. The operative word here is “genuine.” Don’t bother setting a weekly compliment quota; employees will see through it.

Gotta Hold On to Power

It takes a strong ego to lift up somebody else’s. Too many seats- of- the- panthers play one- gunmanship with rules that assume If I acknowledge how good you are, I mustn’t be as good; but if I’m putting you down, I feel better about myself. Zero-sum thinking like that is destructive.

Last thought

Let’s get this straight. Do you think keeping your mouth shut will dissuade people from thinking better of themselves, and therefore less likely to ask for a raise? C’mon. Motivated people perform better. That leads to a healthier culture, higher morale, and higher profits. The real cost you pay is for not dishing out praise.

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