Period. End of story.
You probably thought I was going to quote Teddy, didn’t you? In his defense, I absolutely believe that people will work infinitely harder and be fiercely loyal to a caring, supportive leader. What I don’t agree with is the unspoken insinuation that people will ever care about what I know. They don’t, and they probably never will. They have a personal life, a family, bills, mortgage, a Golden Retriever. Okay, maybe not the Retriever. My point is, they have a lot more important things to care about than what’s floating around my gray matter.
As their leader, our team members care about these things:
How can you help me become better at my job?
I believe that a vast majority of employees want to do well at work. They want to do right by their company, their customers, and especially their manager. They'll break their backs for a manager they believe in and trust. In return, we need to be focused on doing right by them as well. Helping them be as competent and proficient in their job as possible. Whether they want to advance in the company, or just be a solid contributor, our goal here should be the same.
How can you help me accomplish my professional goals?
I mentioned before that some employees want to be solid contributors, and that's it. That's totally fine, those people are the backbone of our companies. But there are others that want to advance and make their way up the company ladder. That's totally fine too. It's up to use to nurture and grow their skill set, so they can be ready for advancement when an opportunity presents itself. And don't hesitate to "stack the bench" a little bit. Instead of making them wait for an opportunity, create an opportunity for them. Have them take on some additional responsibilities, create an intermediate position where they can stretch their wings and continue to develop.
How can you provide me a safe and secure environment in which I can do my best work?
While employees are learning and developing, there has to be a level of safety and security. It has to be okay for them to fail, have mis-steps, experience some setbacks. That's how they'll learn. That's how WE learned when we were in their shoes. This is where empathy comes in. Remember that your team members are on a journey. There are bound to be a few bumps in the road. Help them see the progress they are making even while experiencing challenges. Help them figure out how to overcome them. And assure them it will make them stronger in the long-run.
How can you help me keep my job, so that I can continue to provide by my family?
Let's never forget that our employees have lives outside of work. (And we should make sure that we do, as well. But that's a subject for another day). They have family outside of work that they are providing for. It is devastating when a person is unable to keep their job, it effects many more people than just them. As leaders, this is where frank performance conversations come in. Our employees won't be rock solid all the time. They experience periods where they start to slide backward, and sometimes they slide so far back that they risk their job. As leaders, we need to be ready at the first sign of this, to get in front of that employee and begin the coaching process. Let them know the problem, and what they can do to fix the issue.
As leaders, and especially as #HR pros, we should constantly be on a search for knowledge. And we should expect the same of our team members. But let's not let that overshadow our duty to making our team members the best they can be.