Seeing the people on my team grow as individuals and collectively is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. Most often I find myself drawn to start-ups and working with entrepreneurs. They all have commonalities. All of these companies have cultural ups and downs. All experience growing pains and even periods of instability from both external and internal circumstances. So, what sets some companies apart and gives them the resilience needed to thrive?

I think it is a culture of caring.

When in a position of leadership, it is a must to genuinely care about the people you are working with and understand the natural responsibility to care for them. This is true whether you are the leader in your own household, in a volunteer position, church leadership, leading a classroom of students, or in a business. You must be able to empathize with those around you and show compassion toward yourself and your team to gain their trust, to build honest relationships, and to have positive outcomes.

Here are 5 steps to cultivating a team that cares.

Encourage resourcefulness.
When creating a culture that values resourcefulness, you are letting your team know that you do not expect them to be perfect and to have all of the answers. It automatically shifts the thinking outward from themselves to the community beyond. The same can be true of a classroom of students.

According to this article published in Edutopia, being resourceful takes more than cognitive skill. It takes the ability to process information emotionally as well as intellectually. Research shows that resourceful students are not only better at achieving their goals but also respond better under stress.

I was working my way through college when I earned my first management position. I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t need to know all of the answers, but I did need to know where to get the answers. Being resourceful was invaluable to me, and it helped me to advance rapidly in my early career. Resourcefulness uses an executive function that allows us to problem solve, plan, organize, plan time, and many other skills, all critical to success.

When you teach your team that it’s ok not to have all of the answers, show them how to find the answers, and help them to develop those skills, you are sending a message that they are worth caring about, investing in, and developing. You are sending a message that they do not have to be perfect to be a valued member of the team and that there is room for people to learn and grow. You are showing them compassion by allowing yourself and others the space to learn from and be led by others on the team.

Serve others
One of the best things I can do for my team is to let them know that I understand what is happening and to be of service to them. I want to help them get to where they want to go. I want to be a resource for them as they become who they will be both inside the company and at home. Understanding that we are stronger together and when we model a life of mindful service, others will naturally want to follow the example.

While it is not my responsibility to take on the roles and responsibilities of others, it is my duty to set a tone for the company and my team that I am thinking about their needs rather than what they are or are not doing. I am thinking about their well-being and I am providing them with the resources necessary to do their work. Caring leaders show their team that they appreciate them on a regular basis in ways both big and small.

It is my job to influence good decision-making and to guide my team toward success rather than approaching it with some type of authoritarian attitude. Being in service allows me the opportunity to mentor – a win for both people involved.

Give clear and honest feedback
Clear and honest feedback is key to creating a culture in which people show caring and compassion. Being honest and clear is being kind. Feedback is delivered in a way in which the receiver of the information can plainly understand what is being said. The information is delivered from a place of genuine caring and with clear steps for improvement when needed. It is delivered without blame or personal attack and with the best interest of the person in the forefront. It is given in a safe environment and future expectations are made clear. Everyone on the team is shown respect, feels safe and is able to ask questions.

Provide opportunities for growth and development
Team growth opportunities can take on many forms, and not all require a huge continuing education budget. First, we can delegate and allow people to do the jobs they were hired to do – without micromanaging. Allow team members the freedom to make mistakes. Provide chances for people to collaborate and have real input on the future of the company. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made and sometimes business is hard. It is through transparency that we foster caring and compassion. We model compassion and live it right alongside them.

Know when to be tough and when to show compassion
By definition, compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Sometimes it is tough to know when to actively share some tough love with a member of your team. When you are a mindful leader, ideally you have been observing what is happening, without judgment, and you will have the awareness to show compassion- even in situations when you need to be tough.

If you have been genuine with your team, they too should have the awareness to recognize that you have their best interest in mind. Of course, not every employee understands that in the moment, but almost every person who did not understand the tough love in the moment comes to me later to either thank me or acknowledge that they knew that I cared for them and their well-being.

Could there be a sixth step to cultivating a team that cares and shows compassion to each other? Live it and model it to those around you. And when you make a mistake you own it and ask for the compassion of others in return.

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