Whether you are coach, educator, or other type of leader, you have the potential to have a significant impact on those you lead. If you think back about a teacher, coach or boss who had a major impact on you, I suspect one of your key memories is how they cared about you. As you consider the ways that you may impact others who look up to you, consider the extent to which your actions show that you care about them. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” For many people, the concept of caring comes across as touchy-feely. To some extent it is. However, when all is said and done, if those for whom you are responsible know you care about them, they will trust you. Developing trust is the foundation for a successful team. If you think back to those people you consider to be your best coach, teacher, or manager, I am fairly confident you sensed that they cared about you and you trusted them.
In a powerful 2011 TED talk entitled, “Listen, Learn, Then Lead”, General Stanley McChrystal describes an “after action review” designed, in theory, to teach him what he had done wrong after his platoon produced a less than stellar performance in an early morning training operation. He was taken through the entire operation step-by-step telling him everything he did wrong . . . “sort of leadership by humiliation”. They put a big screen up, and they take you through everything—“and then you didn’t do this, and you didn’t do this, etc.” When he left the briefing, he walked out feeling as “low as a snake’s belly in a wagon rut” and was on his way to apologize to his battalion commander and admit that he had let him down. He went up to begin the apology and his commander said “‘Stanley, I thought you did great.’ And in one sentence, he lifted me, put me back on my feet, and taught me that leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.” Near the end of his talk, McChrystal goes further to say that as leaders “ . . . you have to watch and take care of each other. I probably learned the most about relationships. I learned they are the sinew which holds the force together.”
If you accept the premise that caring for those you lead, trust, and relationships are important, how is this articulated through the type of experiences you provide and interactions with your players/students/employees? From my own experiences, the actions you take may be relatively simple things that you do for them or say to them. When they know you care, they will trust you and follow you anywhere.