The workplace is filled with four-letter words. “Work” itself is one. And so are “hire” and “fire.” No mistaking their meanings. But what about words that convey more feeling? Such as “care” and “love.” True, they’re not as tangible. More telling, though, they speak volumes about being in touch with your workforce.
You see, it’s between the hiring and firing—and the caring and loving—that the business runs. It’s where emotions, as well as time and money, are invested.
In its “Must Reads” series, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) compiled 10 articles into On Emotional Intelligence, featuring bestselling author Daniel Goleman. HBR states: “In his defining work on emotional intelligence,” Goleman “found that it is twice as important as other competencies in determining outstanding leadership.”
Ah, those coveted soft skills. Nuanced and nurturing. It’s how leaders relate with workers, and coworkers with each other, that gets the job done.
In my career, I’ve experienced all types of leadership—bad, indifferent and good. As an employee at several companies and later a consultant, I went from fiercely competitive workplaces to detached management to leaders who do right by people, my preferred style.
From the start at Working Solutions, we sought to establish a high degree of emotional intelligence, with both employees and agents, who are independent contractors working from home. More than 20 years ago, we knew that making a strong, caring connection companywide only made sense in leading a remote, on-demand workforce. While we are distant, we are never detached.
Here’s why: If you show and feel genuine interest for your team or community, immediately you find the level of respect for clients and other team members increases. You also will see business results increase and the team is honestly happy with each other’s success.
Count the Ways
This is our take on creating a caring culture, with five ways that work for us.
- Build: Caring at a corporate level doesn’t just happen. It begins with senior leaders and cascades throughout the entire organization. At Working Solutions, we believe care should be top of mind—and never an afterthought. I like how Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade describes it: “companionate love,” noting “tenderness, compassion, affection and caring matter at work.” Such feelings cannot be left to chance. They need to be instilled in company values and lived out every day to build trust and rapport.
- Hire: The “H” word. Get this one right and everything else falls into place. It comes down to hiring people who really care. No matter the role or the discipline, that’s all it takes. To build a caring culture, it has to be populated with good people, employees and agents, who want to be there and work together. With them, all things are possible—because they see the shared promise and potential,
- Share: Caring, by its nature, needs to be nurtured. That requires a workplace, in-office or virtual, where things are shared—challenges, failures and successes. One person’s pain point might be someone else’s proof point. We won’t know unless we get it out there. One way that’s done is on Vyne, our agent community. There, agents chat, exchange ideas and figure out problems. It’s where we care to share.
- Listen: Now, you may not associate the movie Pulp Fiction with a caring culture. It does, however, offer insight into listening. Remember the scene where Uma Thurman’s character asks hitman Vincent Vega: “Do you listen, or do you wait to talk?” He replies: “I want to talk, but I’m trying to listen.” No matter the occupation, there’s merit in asking for—and hearing out— others’ opinions. We hire smart people. We listen to them. The more they’re heard, the more they contribute and care. And the more we learn and grow.
- Seek: We find it’s best to seek out people who care as much as we do—be they agents, clients or business partners. For instance, a retail client asked us: “What are the five toughest customer situations that agents face?” The client cared enough to ask, so our agents identified some communications issues. The result? A well-orchestrated marketing campaign, complete with a calendar to better coordinate our on-demand agents. Here, like-minded thinking, strengthened with shared objectives, increased the likelihood of a successful partnership.