The care factor strategy for leaders

In 2020, John Mackey wrote the book ‘Conscious Leadership’. In that book (one of my faves), Mackey talked about how he used love, compassion, and human qualities to build the business ‘Whole Foods Market Service’. And Mackey unpacked the 9 elements of conscious leadership.  

One review of the book included: 

Rarely does a book move me to tears, yet this one did, by holding up a mirror to the kind of leader I most deeply want to be. Conscious Leadership is a powerful invitation to shift our mindset from the win/lose games of war to the community-building virtues of love, authenticity, and integrity. It is a book built on the radical idea that business can be a force for bringing more love into the world. Count me in.” 

For me, this book was next level. It talked about the power of love, and how a care factor approach to leadership can change a business and make a difference in society. Yes, it talked about vision and goals, and purpose and process, but the theme of the book was around how to be a great leader by leaning into being a great human. 

Mackey unpacks how you can do this, using the three elements of Conscious Leadership (Vision and Virtue, Mindset and Strategy, People and Culture). Each one of these areas is broken down further into three key strategies. 

Number one under vision and virtue is simply to “Put People First”. It is a simple message. But how do you do that? And you can read the book, or you can read on, and get my take on it, and (like I always do) find the short cut or the simple way to explain and implement an important message.  

  1. Care Factor is about time 

One of the things that leaders don’t want to hear, is that their team members feel that the leader doesn’t care about them. It is not uncommon to hear this, and our coaching clients present with this challenge at times. Especially when the leader is busy. Is under pressure. Or is trying to juggle a lot of balls. 

What it means when a team member says they don’t feel cared for is that the leader does not give the team member (or the team) the time that they deserve. The leader is absent. The leader is pre-occupied with everything other than their team. 

The solution for this one is to find time in your calendar to be with your team members, and your team. Whether that is 1:1 meetings or team meetings. Leaders who take the time to be present demonstrate a level of care factor for their team. Giving time is about making a statement relating to what is important. 

When your team are important enough to get your time, your team members feel cared for. 

  1. Care Factor is about conversation 

And I don’t mean one way conversation. I mean conversing. And when a leader is conversing, what they should be doing is asking questions, and keeping the discussion moving. Learning about the team member. 

The word converse comes from Middle English (in the sense ‘live among, be familiar with’): from Old French converser; from Latin conversari ‘keep company (with’), from con- ‘with’ + versare, frequentative of vertere ‘to turn’. The current sense of the verb dates from the early 17th century (credit: Oxford Languages Definitions). 

Conversation is about connection. And as per the definition, it means to be familiar with team members. To turn towards team members. To keep company with them, with the right level of connection and direction.  

But that is not enough practical information. Here is your conversation strategy: 

  • Ask Psychological Safety questions 

Ask whether it is safe to share ideas, opinions, and views. Ask if it is safe to contribute at high levels and ask if your team member feels safe to challenge the norms. 

  • Ask Psychological Empowerment questions 

Ask whether your team members feel like they are having an impact. Are they getting meaning from their work? Do they feel like they have a sense of self-determination (ownership of their work choices), and do they feel competent to fulfill the duties of their role? 

  • Ask Psychological Connection questions 

These questions are about career direction. This is where you learn not ‘where’ your team members want to be in 5 years, but ‘what’ they want to be doing. The ‘what’ is a better type of question, because when you know that you can look for the right opportunities to help the team member get there. All the while remembering that there are some team members who never want to do anything other than what they are doing now – which is important to understand. 

When you can converse in a way that is focused on connecting with your team members (and understanding their needs), your team members feel cared for. 

  1. Care Factor is about courage 

When it comes time to have a robust conversation, if the first two points have been addressed, this third point should take care of itself. 

I couldn’t tell you how many leaders avoid the courageous conversations. They don’t want to hurt the team member by delivering bad news. What they don’t realise is that avoidance is ruinous. Avoiding courageous conversations does not help your team members, it harms them. And most of the time, the team member either knows it is being avoided, or would rather know than be kept in the dark. 

Yes, these conversations take preparation. They take planning, and they take precision. They need to be handled correctly.  

When you can have courageous conversations with your team members to support their growth and development, your team members feel cared for. 

What could you do today, to give time, to get connected, or to be courageous with your team? 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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