Can You Create A Culture of Care?
BY MICHELLE MCQUAID
Despite many workplaces investing in wellbeing this year, burn out rates and resignations are the rise, leaving many leaders asking: “How should we be caring for our teams?” New research suggests that caring for wellbeing is only part of the solution and that broken organisational cultures really lie at the heart of the problem.
“Studies have found that when leaders prioritise the creation of a positive emotional culture, teams are more likely to have better performance, provide better customer service, and be more innovative, and people are less likely to burn out or quit,” explained Dr. Paige Williams of The Leaders Lab. “They build what we call a culture of CARE.”
Leaders who build cultures of CARE prioritise:
Compassion – They reach for curiosity and generosity, rather than leaping to assumptions and rushing to judgements about people, so they can create psychological safe spaces for learning and allyship.
Appreciation – They encourage asking for and giving help, so they can harness their individual and collective strengths and reduce wasted time and effort.
Responsibility – They invite ownership, clarify commitments, and hold people accountable instead of indulging incompetence, settling for half-hearted compliance, or looking the other way when boundaries and values are crossed.
Emotional Wisdom – They view emotions – even the uncomfortable ones – as “information” to be understood, so they can embrace the reality that both feelings of thriving and struggle fuel resilience and support growth.
The challenge is that while many leaders report that they “often” show compassion, express appreciation, encourage responsibility, and demonstrate emotional wisdom, team members are significantly more likely to report that this is only happening “sometimes.” So, how can leaders close this cultural CARE gap?
“The good news is that creating a culture of CARE doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming,” said Paige. “In fact, our research has found that small, daily CARE practices by leaders can have a big impact on their team’s levels of psychological safety, wellbeing, and performance.”
Paige recommends that leaders:
Assess your current culture – Use the free five-minute Leading To Thrive Survey to quickly assess how you’re showing compassion, expressing appreciation, encouraging responsibility, and demonstrating emotional wisdom across your team and the impact this may be having on psychological safety, wellbeing, and performance.
Map what’s working well – Note down your existing routines (your team processes), rituals (your team practices), and role modeling (your own behaviours) that you are already using to support your culture of CARE. Reflect on the rhythm (the frequency) with which these opportunities happen in your team. Does it feel like you are “often” or only “sometimes” providing the CARE your people need?
Address your CARE gaps – As you look at your current culture map, are there any small opportunities to easily add in some additional moments of CARE to the routines, rituals, and role modeling you already have? Or might you need to add a new opportunity to have the impact you want? For example: Can you cultivate more curiosity instead of judgement in team meetings? Might you be able to role model how to ask for help at your next project kick off? Could you create an accountability board showing each person’s learning goals? Can you prioritise small rituals of joy with a Friday Frolic for people to feel connected to each other?
Of course, this doesn’t all happen magically overnight. It takes playful experimentation over time for a culture of CARE to really kick in. But with the right knowledge, tools, and support it can happen in ways that are good for leaders and their teams.
So, what can you do to this week to create more CARE in your culture?
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