Editor's note: Brian O'Neill, CMSWire Contributor and former chief client officer for FIS, wrote for CX and other teams in his former organization a series of articles. Each were titled, “The Path ... " with each edition being a new take. For example, he would discuss culture, leadership, ownership, purpose, etc. In his six-plus years in his CX role, he sent out 286 notes with the intention to empower, reinforce and frame his company's mission by sharing insights to help his team improve its game and increase its level of engagement in what it wanted to accomplish. He revives some of these notes and adds some current perspective in this Fall/Winter 2022/2023 CMSWire series.
Throughout our journey on The Path, oftentimes our colleagues would be exposed to the very difficult facets of being part of a publicly-traded company. Cost containment and revenue expansion ... at the same time. It was and continues to be critical to demonstrate caring in your leadership style, or you’ll be faced with this question:
Does anyone care?
Displaying Kindness and Concern for Others
How about the ability to understand and share the feelings of another? While the former defines caring, the latter is empathy, its cousin.
Remember the dream of the internet, social networks, mobile phones, <insert technology here>? Fundamentally there was this dream that we, as a society, the collective, the human, would be more efficient while not having to bear the brunt of being overly taxed.
Sorry, I meant stressed.
Related Article: The Path to Excellence, Part 1: Guide for CX Leaders Begins Again
Enter a Pandemic
Ah yes, for me and my team it was Friday the 13th of March 2020 when we made the call to keep everyone home starting the following week. This included sending colleagues home from the airport to do installations remotely — a feat, at the time, that had never been done before.
Talk about stress. Lockdowns followed, and clients for the most part were gracious and simply thrilled that calls were being answered, questions resolved, and, somehow, implementations being executed.
The early days of team calls, happy hours, coffee breaks on Zoom or Teams soon ran their natural lifecycle and an interesting thing happened: a workforce that rejected the idea of working from home, demanding to know when they could get back in the office, suddenly, almost overnight, stated their desire to stay in the WFH — work from home status.
Add in clients who were understanding and had now grown impatient. Grace was gone.
So, Who Cares?
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that fundamentally a corporation was a person. To be fair, the issue was very much focused on campaign/political spending, but it brought this idea of personage into view.
In other words, what is the persona of the company you work for — you know, if they were a real, breathing, single life form? Would they care? And more importantly, what would they care about?
While those in academia will argue and provide countless stats resulting in an untold number of dissertations for PhDs tied to the pandemic and its impact on employees, the simple fact is that, in this very moment, many of your colleagues are not happy.
Worse, they are most likely actively disengaged, working at not working because the person (read: corporation) they work for, in their view, simply does not care.
Related Article: The Path to Excellence, Part 2: Your CX Team's Strengths
How Did We Get Here?
I’m quite certain an expert on the various generations will point to the life experiences of Boomers and how that impacted Gen X or Millennials, and how that translated to Gen Z telling stories of, “Well, back in my day." While the arguments will all be valid, I wonder, what role did one person play in their experience?
That corporate person.
Times have changed. Expectations have evolved ... so too should the people, well, in this case, the person.
So, the pandemic begot The Great Resignation once our colleagues were home and came to the realization of what work-life balance looks like. Soon to be followed by Quiet Quitting, where, you know, you’ll stick it to the company by only doing the bare minimum instead of going above and beyond.
Do You Really Care?
Is this you? Do you know one or more friends that fit one or both categories?
More importantly, as a leader within the very person, errr, corporations, that have set the table for this situation, what are you doing to actually reverse course?
Turns out that caring and empathy can be difficult things to come by when you are judged by growth rates, earnings per share and margin expansion.
In no strange coincidence, the ability to achieve each of these goals (and more) come directly from the very group that tends to be alienated — your team, your people, the actual people that compromise the person, errr, corporation.
Did we forget the mission of the enterprise? Have we lost sight of its purpose? Are we no longer celebrating the positive impact our own teams have on the communities in which they live?
Unique Chance for Leaders to Lead
And no, I’m not just talking about those with the title, but all who strive to be leaders and can set a tone for what is desired and sought after. Dare I say, a culture? This is the time to avoid being defensive, deflecting and discouraging discourse and the time to open communication up to fully grasp what the persona of the corporation is really seeking.
To be a leader is to be vulnerable, to be authentic and to not always be right. It is a chance to learn and engage with your teams at a level we’ve previously not needed, and yes, while it may be a bit awkward, cumbersome and, dare I say emotional, your other option is far bleaker and much more painful.
You can’t hire or replace your way out this situation. It’s time to address it head on, and while caring and empathy may fall well down on the list of strengths, it does not mean that it is acceptable to ignore them.
Truly display concern. Demonstrate the ability to understand. Be authentic. Restate the mission. Reshare the purpose. Avoid talking points.
Rally to that end and maybe, just maybe, your colleagues will care enough to stop leaving and get back to being actively engaged and willingly vocal about it!
Enjoy the journey (no one said it would be easy).
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