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CARE: The New Measurement of a Leader

Clarion Call

Leadership has never been more important.

A recent Gallup study found employee engagement in the U.S. experienced its first annual decline in a decade—dropping from 36% engaged in 2020 to 34% in 2021, and 32% in 2022, with 18% actively disengaged.

The engagement areas that declined the most were:

  • clarity of expectations

  • connection to the mission or purpose of the company

  • opportunities to learn and grow

  • opportunities to do what employees do best

  • feeling cared about at work

Young millennials, Gen-Zers, and women experienced more decline in feeling cared about at work, and having someone that encourages their development, among other areas.

As we emerge from trends such as ‘The Great Resignation’, ‘The Great Regret’, and ‘Quiet Quitting’ – ‘Return to Office’, ‘Claiming Boundaries’, and ‘Generative AI’ have been added or continue to be in the mix. Conduct an online search or ask ChatGPT about these topics, you will receive endless amounts of research, data, opinions, and case studies on how they are transforming the way people are viewing their careers and life. Furthermore, the emergence of generative AI has people thinking deeper about how they need to adapt and prepare themselves for the future.

And much like when ‘work/life balance’ emerged in the 70s and 80s, and the rise of ‘work life fusion’ over the last decade, people are re-claiming their boundaries, have a heightened awareness of their values, and are viewing their efforts today as part of a long-term plan and vision for themselves.

These data are the clarion call to emphasize what we have known about effective leadership even prior to these recent trends or advances becoming the hot topic: The relationship between a leader and their team has the greatest impact on employee engagement and business performance.

The workforce is strengthening their growth-mindset muscle by reimagining how their contributions bring a sense of fulfillment in all aspects of their lives. It is our obligation as leaders to strengthen our growth-mindset muscle to reimagine how we can lead in this environment.

Reimagine Leadership

To balance strategic execution, operational tactics, financial targets, and stakeholder expectations, we lean into inventive ways to speed up progress. We are also relied upon to see blind spots and examine trends to identify adjustments that will shape the future we want to see.

The same holds true in people leadership as we bring out the best in others. We must be open to new possibilities and seek various points of view to strengthen our relationships with those who rely on our leadership.

It is time to lead with CARE: Curiosity, Adaptability, Respect, Empathy

Each requires a hard look to identify what will get the most out of ourselves and others. They are table stakes if you want to be seen as a leader that drives collaboration, innovation, and growth of your organization. They are necessary to succeed in business and leadership.

Let’s look closer at CARE, the new measurement of a leader:

Curiosity – Leaders paint a picture of the future, so others rally around a common vision. It requires strong execution by communicating clearly, fortifying resources, and generating optimism toward the future. By leading with curiosity, you are focused on what you need to unlearn — rethink what has been tried and true, test assumptions, identify outdated technology and processes — to see what you need to learn to bring your vision to life.

You can extend these behaviors as you help members of your team envision their future and build meaning in the work they do. By leading with curiosity, you show genuine care for their success, well-being, and purpose. While you won’t be able to meet all their needs, you have heightened awareness, so you are more skillful in your leadership. Your role is to help employees build meaning and purpose, so they realize their potential and have optimism about the future.

Adaptability – Change is one thing we know is certain. Businesses that are ready to adjust strategies and tactics can successfully translate their brand to the needs of the marketplace, becoming leaders in innovation and delivering stakeholder value. Start by being reflection focused: gain insight into what helped you succeed and what caused you to falter so you can answer what needs to be different next time to be even better as you focus on achieving business objectives.

Help your team get beyond the noise of the day-to-day so they can see opportunities, focus on what is possible, and adapt to change effectively. Sometimes emotions that emerge with disappointment or failure can cloud that path and make it difficult to move forward. Create the right conditions for your team to reflect on their performance to build up and fuel during times of difficulty and inspire in times of celebration. Engage your team in a targeted conversation to help them see beyond any limitations to generate solutions and gain momentum.

Respect – To develop and execute a business strategy, leaders set clear and measurable goals, followed by the right intentions to help achieve them. In so doing, you are creating an exceptional stakeholder experience by considering the needs of others and delivering the right value. Place attention to where it matters most by being mindful of where you focus energy. Listen to what your stakeholders value, so you focus on the right things at the right time.

At its core, respect is about how you place attention on your people and make your words count. Cultivating a climate of respect requires intentional actions and behaviors. Understand the inherent value of your people and then provide the opportunity to showcase this value. You cannot deliver on a business strategy without building talent. Doing so with intention means you recognize and leverage the potential and strengths of everyone, and you are keeping in mind what is important to those you lead. By helping your team create a path for growth and setting intentions to position them for success, you are now positioned to overcome business challenges along the way and deliver on what you promise.

Empathy – As a business leader, you take deliberate steps to anticipate the needs of the market–how it is changing, and the problems that need to be solved. Relate to your stakeholders and place yourself in a unique position to embrace innovation. This will help you identify problems that need to be solved and how you can be of service. Empathy can drive your business to be first with the right solution at the right time and be your competitive differentiator.

It is also a differentiator as a people leader. Your team relies on your leadership and service to help them grow, gain clarity on how they can contribute to the future, and ultimately experience personal fulfillment from their job. Get to know what inspires them and ask questions so you gain a greater appreciation of their outlook for the future. When taking in the perspective of another, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself. You see beyond what they contribute in their work to what they want to achieve in their career.

Embrace This Moment

Data about the decline in employee engagement, highlighted by trends and advancements, provides the recipe for what people care about. This stresses that the relationship between leaders and their teams has the greatest impact on employee engagement and business performance. As the workforce strengthens its growth-mindset muscle, leaders need to unlearn to see differently and create a climate of collaboration, innovation, and growth.

It is time to lead with CARE: Curiosity, Adaptability, Respect, Empathy - the new measurement of a leader.

Keep growing.

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