Accountable Leaders Show That They Care

Hospitals and funerals are two places we rarely want to go. Even when we feel genuine love and concern for the person involved or his/her family, we’re distracted by how going to those places makes us feel – awkward, afraid for our own health or mortality, guilty, sad or a whole host of other emotions that may arise.

This situation has come up for two of my clients – both leaders in their organization. In Jim’s case, a former employee died and Jim was the only one at the company who didn’t attend the funeral.

When I asked why, he said he has a hard time going to funerals. The man who died had a huge family and so the funeral would be chaotic. “It was just too much.”

Jim then went on to tell me how he was going to do something much more meaningful; he was going to the grave site to have a personal visit with the deceased.

That reminded me of my other client who ran into this situation, and so I told Jim the story:

My client Bob was running a department of 40+ people when one of his staff got sick and was hospitalized. Everyone in the department went to visit this person in the hospital. Except for Bob. He just couldn’t, he said, because going to hospitals made him sick. And then the worst happened; his employee died.

Months later, Bob had hired me as an executive consultant, and we did a 360-degree assessment to find out what his staff thought of him. One of the questions rated how much Bob cared for his people. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the greatest, Bob rated himself at a 4.5. The average rating from his people? 1.8.

When I dug a little deeper and finally heard the story about the sick employee, I was able to show Bob that by not visiting the sick employee in the hospital, he was sending a message to his staff that he didn’t care. They couldn’t see the love in his heart, and it really didn’t matter to them how hard it may have been for him to visit that hospital.

After I finished telling Jim this story, I commented that his former staff’s family wouldn’t see him at the grave site. They wouldn’t hear, see or feel his support and comfort. I encouraged him to go ahead with his personal visit at the grave site, but to also find a way to reach out to this man’s family.

In The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, Stephen Covey writes, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”

What’s in your heart is real to you, but that may not be what the other person is seeing or believing. If your intention is to show your people that you care, your actions have to back that up.

What would your team members say about how much you care about them? Do you think you’d have the same answer? If you want to bring the two ratings closer together, Alan M. Dobzinski is a masterful meeting facilitator who can bring everyone together. Contact him today to get started.