The Art of Caring Leadership with Author Heather R. Younger

The Art of Caring Leadership with author Heather R. Younger

Full Transcript Below: 

Jenn DeWall:

Hi Everyone! It is Jenn DeWall with The Leadership Habit podcast for Crestcom. On today’s show, I sat down with Heather Younger. For those that may not know Heather Younger, she recently spoke at Crestcom Leadership Summit. We are so happy to have her, but let me tell you a little more about her. Heather Younger is a best-selling author, international speaker, consultant, adjunct organizational leadership professor, and facilitator who has earned her reputation as an employee whisperer. Her experiences as an entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator, and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees, organizations, and companies large and small tick. As the champion for positive change in workplaces communities and the world, Heather founded employee fanatics, a leading employee engagement, and leadership development consulting and training firm. She wants to inspire others by teaching the kind of caring leadership that drives real results.

Heather hosts the weekly podcast, Leadership With Heart, which uncovers what drives leaders from all over the world and all walks of life to be more emotionally intelligent leaders. Her book, The Seven Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty, hit the Forbes Must-Read List and is a go-to source for HR professionals and organizational leaders seeking insight into their organization’s dynamics. Her latest book, The Art of Caring Leadership, was picked up by Berrett-Koehler Publishers and was released in April 2021. Today, Heather and I sat down to talk about her newest book, The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations. Enjoy.

Welcome Back Heather R. Younger, Author of The Art of Caring Leadership

Jenn DeWall:

Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit. This is Jenn DeWall. And today, I am sitting down with author— also described as the employee whisper— consultant and speaker, Heather Younger. And we are here. You may recognize that voice. We’ve talked with her before! But now we’re here. And she is here with us to talk about her newest book, The Art of Caring Leadership. Heather, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Heather R. Younger:

Thanks for having me. I am so excited to be here with you.

Jenn DeWall:

Oh my gosh, Heather, we have to dive right into it. This is a new book. What inspired you to write The Art of Caring Leadership?

Heather R. Younger:

You know, to be honest, it was because there’s so much pain in the world, so much pain from employees caused by their leaders. They would just, you know, employees would come to me over the years, or I’d be reading all these survey comments. And I would see that how, how much basically the leaders would just miss the mark as it related to what their people needed. They had in my mind no clue what they needed to do to keep them happy, to keep them wanting to be on the team, willing to go over and above being innovative, creative. They just were missing it. So I saw all that over the years and read it and witnessed it, listening sessions and such. And someone’s got to do something about this. Someone’s gotta be the voice. Someone’s got to show some alignment. So I, what I did is I took all these years I culminated in listening to all the employees and stuff. And then I took that, and I also talked to a lot of leaders on my podcast, Leadership at Heart. And when I was talking to them, I started to synthesize what it was that they did. That was like, Ooh, it was like the aha moments. I’d be like, Oh, that’s it right there. That’s it. That’s it. That’s brilliant. And after I did that, like 170 times, I said, there are nine behaviors that align with what employees want and what these particular leaders were doing. And I highlighted them in this book.

Who Should Read The Art of Caring Leadership?

Jenn DeWall:

Oh gosh, I’m so excited to dive into these. And for those that might be listening, Heather just joined Crestcom’s Leadership Summit, where she gave us a sneak peek into this book. But out of curiosity, who— when you wrote this— who is that end reader that you’re hoping to make an impact with?

Heather R. Younger:

Well, I say in the book, you know, it’s for leaders, it’s for those who see themselves as leaders is for those in HR, not in HR, but in the end, I’d love to get into the hands of the jerks. You heard me say that that’s like a good quote. I want to get this book in the hands of the jerks. It’s the ones who just don’t show care. They either don’t get it. They don’t care, but they get it. They’re not willing to do anything. And I would like for them to be like, get a clue, get a clue. I want you to be able to change the lives of the employees that are looking to you for guidance, that are relying on your leadership. And so this book is, that’s what I would like. I’d like it to get into the hands of those people who just don’t get it. And they don’t. They’re just not expressing care.

Jenn DeWall:

Oh my gosh. I think there are a lot of people listening that are also probably echoing that, yes, please get it to this person because you know what? I don’t love working with them. And they could definitely benefit from this. How does changing the way that we show up benefit an organization? Because I think, again, people look at some of this, we’re talking about caring leadership. Like you get the people that think that that’s too “woo- woo.” I guess, you know, I love it, but I know that there are the resistors that are like, what do you mean? People should be happy. They have a job. You know, or what type of, I guess, pushback did you anticipate? Or what have you seen in terms of maybe people’s reluctance to embrace caring leadership?

Heather R. Younger:

Well, then I’m going to answer in two ways. One is if you don’t show care, you don’t get any of the hard-line results that you want. And, and, and if you think for yourself, those listening to a time when you worked at a place, and you were so jazzed and so excited to get to work, to do, to do the work, you felt like the work was meaningful. You felt like you were fulfilled. I want you to think back on what that manager, that supervisor was for you, how, how did they help you during that journey? Were they the jerks I’m talking about? Or, were they the people that expressed the care, the behaviors we’re going to talk about this. The one thing I want to put that out there for you to be thinking about as we talk, but secondarily in the book, I highlight the ROI on caring leadership.

I highlight stories like Gary Ridge, the CEO, WD 40 company, who moved the company from multiple hundreds of millions of dollars company to a market cap of 2.2 billion by putting his people first. I highlight people like Ron Alvesteffer, president and CEO of Service Express, the same exact thing where he was so focused on the process. You’d meet people, talk about projects, talking about how we’re going to move forward sales. And he did that and did that. And one day, he realized this is getting me nowhere. So we started to meet people where they’re at. He sat with them, had deeper conversations with them, and start to realize that, wait a second, putting people first is my strategy and move the company from a double-digit million dollar company to a triple-digit, $200- $300 million company by really focusing on putting the people first. And these are just a couple of examples of how really the ROI of caring leadership really does pay off.

The ROI of Caring Leadership

Jenn DeWall:

Where do people get it wrong? I know you just hit one, you know, the example of maybe putting process over people, but what are some examples of where people get maybe caring leadership wrong or just leadership in general that could be working counter to the ROI that you want to achieve?

Heather R. Younger:

Yeah, I think, I mean, in order to be a caring leader, there’s like a three prerequisites one. You have to have an awareness that there’s a, there’s a gap you’re creating for your people. The second is you have to have a desire to want to change it. And then the third is really having this momentum, this, this desire, this energy to keep, like stamina to keep up with the change that you’re looking for. So I think the biggest thing is that where people go wrong is they don’t have an awareness, or they have an awareness, and they have no desire to change it. And then the third one is again, and they have no stamina. They’re like, I see it. I think we probably need to do something about it, but can we do that in like six months? And so they’re not looking at, this is a long term play that’s in place that you have that this is something that when you’re looking at caring leadership, it’s about expressing caring, concern, and kindness for those who lead in consistent ways daily. And so daily means for the rep forever. Right? And that’s an exhausting concept for most. I know, but if anything that’s worth having is worth fighting for, and if you want to have the bigger market cap, you want to have more customer satisfaction. You want to have, you know, fewer losses when it comes to safety. Right? All of those things, if you express care more often, more consistently, you’re going to get the things that you’re looking for.

Jenn DeWall:

Oh gosh. Could you please repeat that definition of caring leadership again? So you had said consistent, you know, we’ve got to show up consistently. It’s gotta be daily. That’s what I heard. What else? Cause I want to really drive home on that. That’s such a good

Heather R. Younger:

So caring leadership is taking daily actions to show concern and kindness for those you lead. That’s the definition of caring leadership. And in order to be known as a caring leader, even start that journey, you have to have an awareness that you’re creating a gap for those that look to you for guidance. You have to have a desire to do something about it. And then you have to have a kind of stamina or the wherewithal to keep it going because it doesn’t ever end. Those would be the three things I would say that are really important.

Caring Leadership Requires Self-Awareness

Jenn DeWall:

What are some of the gaps that we might create? Because I’m excited to dive into the content. I’m curious, like, what are some of the gaps that we create as a leader? And it’s likely I know what you’re saying. It’s likely subconscious. We just aren’t aware- it’s what you said. Self-Awareness what are some of those gaps that you can create as a leader?

Heather R. Younger:

Well, when we look at kind of the first requirement of caring leadership, it’s this idea of self-leadership, which I did talk about at the summit. We didn’t obviously go very, very deep on it. But this idea of self-leadership is if we, if we have, if you think about this, if we have a cup as a teacup and you have lots of tea on it, tea in it, and it’s overflowing onto the saucer, and you’re like, you have so much in it. You’ve put a lot into yourself. You’ve owned your own growth. You’re authentic, and you’re congruent. You’ve exercised self-care. You’ve done all these things that are for yourself. Now you can give from the saucer the overflow from the cup. If your cup is empty, you can’t give much from it. You can’t lead well if you aren’t leading yourself first.

So that is one of the gaps that’s left just first because they haven’t actually begun to meet their own needs. They aren’t aware of where they’re at, where the gaps are for themselves. And so then they can’t give, then we start to look into the other behaviors. We’re looking at things like creating safe spaces for team members. We, this is kind of a buzzword we’ve heard, particularly after the George Floyd stuff and everything related to race relations, mostly in the US, so this idea of safe spaces, it’s like, well, do people feel comfortable speaking up? Do they feel like they can step outside themselves and say things that they maybe ordinarily wouldn’t feel comfortable doing? Because their leaders have helped them to feel comfortable. And by the way, safe spaces aren’t created, just because we say viola! We’re going to create a round table event. And we want you all to come and tell the truth. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because you didn’t create the trust first. You didn’t create a sense of respect first. So those are some of the foundations of the safe spaces.

Then we think of this idea of whole-person leadership. Well, when you think about zoom and deans, we’ve been seeing a lot more of people lately, right? We see their kids running behind them. We see people aren’t running around half-dressed. We might hear people yelling at each other. We may see an elderly person in the background. There’s so much that’s going on in the homes that you never saw before, but now you see it. Don’t forget what you saw. Don’t forget what you found out. Use that even when you get back to face-to-face or in a hybrid situation because you have to continue to dig deep to understand who your team members are. So you can lead them fully. You get more out of them as a result.

Another thing we talk about is this idea of listening. Creating a culture of listening and the listening stuff is so darn critical. It’s almost like the foundation of all of it because self-leadership is about listening to ourselves, right? It’s understanding who we are, listening, being aware, hypersensitive to what we’re feeling and how we’re showing up in the world. So this concept of creating and listening culture is kind of an in and out exercise. And it really is this idea of taking in what we hear and all the mediums. I mean, taking it all in, reflecting on it in a really kind of pensive way in a way that makes you, you’re not just knee-jerk with any reactions you’re thinking through, how does this work with strategy? How does this relate to this person and this department? Really reflecting that way.

And then from there, it’s acting upon what we can, if we can act upon it, making sure we’re taking strategic action based upon what we hear, whether we hear it in a one-on-one meeting, whether we hear it in team meetings, whether the organizational leaders here at the above organization, we’re going to be strategic about that action. And then we’re going to go back around and flip back around, and we’re going to connect the dots. We’re going to say, okay, so I heard you. Here’s what I think I heard you say, I acted upon what it is. You said, and guess what? We did this thing. And it was because of what you said, boom, power, like a huge amount of power, because now they’re like, Oh my gosh, my voice, when I open my mouth, it’s safe to do so you listened to me, you reflect, you act upon it. And now you’re telling me you did these things because I said it, Holy smokes. There’s power in that. So those are some of the behaviors that caring leaders do. And when they don’t do it, they leave people feeling devalued. They leave people wanting to leave. So turnover becomes a huge issue.

Listening To Employees Takes More Than an Annual Survey

Jenn DeWall:

Yes. And you said so many valuable pieces. I mean, I think one for me, and maybe this is kind of. If I’m going back to my 20-year-old self, this might be a little bit of how jaded I was- I really had a strong dislike for company surveys primarily because why do them? They don’t do anything! And so then it becomes this drain on your time. And it also creates this sense of, I mean, I just didn’t trust it. I’m like, why do they keep trying to pretend that they’re doing this? Even though they would never do it. And I think, you know, if I was, I had a client that was talking about even, they don’t even share openly on the surveys because they’re, they’re afraid of anonymity and whether or not like whether that’s going to come back to them. So I think there are so many reasons why employees are just kind of turned off. And you, you hit up the important thing. You’ve got to close the loop. You have to just say we heard you. Not thanks so much; we’re happy we surveyed you. We won’t have to follow up on that.

Heather R. Younger:

And then you’ll never hear anything back. Thank you for your service. And I hate that. That is the reason why employee phonetics does this— we help organizations create cultures of listening because I can’t stand this thing where it stops like that. They’ll listen, and they’ll, they may reflect even as a group at a table. And then they’re like, now what do we do? And then they may even act on a few things, but then they never tell people what they did, even if they just never, they never tell that you missed the opportunity when you don’t tell those you need that their voices are so important to you. That our voices are what make us us. So if we, if we, if our voices aren’t important to those who we look to for guidance who are supposed to lead us, what does it say about us? We feel rejected, right? So it’s so critical, really critical piece.

Jenn DeWall:

Well, let’s, let’s dive into the book a little bit. I know there are multiple different principles, and we’ve touched on a few of them. What are the ones that you would want to share with our audience? We’re not going to give it all away, but where do you start to practice The Art of Caring Leadership?

Caring Leadership Requires Consistency

Heather R. Younger:

Well, I mean, I, I did give. Obviously, I did give a few of those just now. I would say one of the ones I didn’t really touch on and this idea of making them feel important. And there are a lot of different sub-components that the good thing in the book is that there, there are not only just like these high level strategic or like philosophical things I talk about, but I drill it down into kind of sub practices or behaviors. I also back it up with stories and data. So you have all of it for those who are learner learners and learn in different ways. This makes them feel important. One of the things that I talk about in there is spending time with them, spending time with them in very specific ways. So in that connect, connecting with them one-on-one or in team meetings, making a regular cadence of doing that.

This is not rocket science. This is not anything you’ve not heard before, but guess what? Many leaders don’t do it consistently. And so what happens is when you don’t do it that way, what you tell your people is that you aren’t all that important to me. You aren’t all that valued in the work that you do because you aren’t taking the time to spend that time. So there’s a spontaneous time where you’re just available for them when they need you. There’s that setup time when you have that one-on-one or team meeting. And there’s also this idea of like getting in the trenches with them, like standing next to them and the work that needs to get done, don’t be so up here in the ivory tower and away from them stay connected to their needs and what it is that they need. So these are some of the ways that we do it. Of course, we do it by showing them appreciation, right? Recognizing them and their way, finding out what’s meaningful for them, what motivates them, and then recognizing them in that way, that helps them feel important as well.

Jenn DeWall:

It’s so interesting that the topic, again, it’s, you know, make someone feel that they matter. And one way of doing that is just by not canceling your meetings. If you have a one-on-one scheduled, and it’s so interesting because I think people don’t realize, like, it might seem like a simple cancel. I’ve got a lot going on. I’m going to cancel this one-on-one, but yes, you are. You’re not saying it to them, but you’re saying to them that they don’t matter. Something else came in. I think most people will understand if something’s come up, but a lot of times, it might be just canceling it. I’ve got something else and then no reschedule until next month’s check-in. Right? And then they’re like, Oh, I know we didn’t have the one. I think that people, cause it seems so obvious to me that you would think most leaders are like, yeah, like leadership 101, probably show them that they matter. But yet I know it’s not that common because we get caught up in our own distractions or whatnot. But like, what do you notice of like, what gets, what gets in people’s way of being able to show that their employees are important?

Heather R. Younger:

Well, I mean, I think as you would probably imagine it is that day-to-day, it’s just us getting caught up in the day-to-day. I mean, I have had to cancel meetings myself, and I’ve written multiple books on this. I speak on this. Right. I have had to cancel, but here’s what I do. I always right away- I get it back on the calendar. There’s no them running after me trying to see where I’m at. And I’m also really good at spontaneously showing up to just check-in. If I didn’t have the formal meeting, checking in, seeing what I can do to remove barriers. Is there anything I can do? You? I was at a this has been several years ago, I was working in a government, local government space. And I was in an interview with one of my team members.

We were interviewing a guy that we really want to bring on. And the gentlemen asks, well, what’s so good about your team. Like, why should I come? Why should I come to join you and not this other organization? And there was a silence, and it was super awkward. And I didn’t want to answer. I was like letting I wanted the team member to answer. The team member took a little minute. And he says you know what? This lady right here. And I went, what? And he says, no, here’s why, because before you came, no managers really stopped by to check on us. We didn’t really feel that important. No one ever set up meetings to come see us or for us to go see them. They, you just took the time to make us feel special, and that made all the difference. And that’s the reason why I think you should join this team because Heather does that.

And it’s, this is not to prop me up. It’s about the practice that I’m talking about. So I’m sharing a practice that I know when I put in the book. It’s the practice of it. It’s the expression of the behaviors, daily actions, and being consistent, right? It’s not doing it once in a while. It’s not meeting with your team member once every three weeks or three months or whatever that is. It’s not just a performance review that you take that time to understand and know who they are. It’s going to the bottom of it. I’ve had many team members come to my office in tears. One woman came in. That’s the same, the same employer. She came into me, and she was really upset because she felt like someone was like stalking her at home. And so we were like, okay, how do we get with local authorities?

So I’m working with her on all this stuff that has nothing to do with work. But I’m helping her because I want her. I know she needs to feel safe. She can’t even concentrate at work. She has to feel safe outside of work for her to feel comfortable inside and for her to even be able to do her job. So again, considering the whole person means all the other, the different, the complexities of the person. And when we meet them there, they feel completely enveloped, right? They feel like, Ah! And safety is so critical, and having that sense of care and belonging is a huge one too.

Caring Leaders Manage the Whole Person

Jenn DeWall:

I have to dig deeper on this one because I think, you know, you just talked about something that, again, many people were conditioned to beware of in leadership. You are blurring a line! You’re just supposed to focus on what they’re doing in the office. What? I don’t care what happens outside, and no, they may not necessarily feel like they don’t care, but they were taught to show that that’s not okay to care. Where do you think that we even learned the lesson to only see half of the person or to only see them at work?

Heather R. Younger:

I hate to say it, but I think there were a lot of HR practices that just early on made us be so afraid of the legalities of going too close or getting too close to our team members. I am a lawyer by training, so I’m gonna just put that out there. Don’t hold it against me. I think the key here, though, I rather them smack me a little bit on my hand. I’m going to lean on the side of people, on humanity, on meeting them where they’re at. Then I will, the other side, I know a lot of people live more in a, a place of fear or compliance. And I understand that, but you are not getting the most you can get out of your team. And I know what I mean by that is kind of, if you want unity, you want, you want cohesiveness, you want to deliver great results. You want a team that’s shiny. You’re going to do the things I’m talking to you about, just plain and simple.

Jenn DeWall:

Oh my gosh. I want to go so much all in on this because I think when you post a job description; you’re never looking for an individual who will separate their work persona from their home persona. Or the individual that will challenge the status quo. The individual that will not show emotions. How do organizations or cultures end up kind of abiding by that unwritten rule of that expectation for us to show it because they would never post something like that? Like, Hey, looking for half a person, thank you. We do a lot of great here, but then people and even your top dealers end up showing up that way. How do you think that happens? It’s because we’re not caring leaders. I know. That’s what I mean.

Heather R. Younger:

Here’s the thing. I’m going to make sure I state this too. I write about this. I speak about this. And I’m a caring leader in development. And we all are. We’re on this journey together. Some of us are closer, like we are further in, right? And some of us have some more ways to go, but we are all on that journey together. So this book is not about perfection. These concepts are not about perfection. It’s about continuous improvement. It’s about consistent daily actions to show concern and kindness for those you lead. Consistent didn’t say perfect- notice that I didn’t say consistently perfectly delivered. No. And it’s because, like the art, the idea is that we all have our own brushstrokes to how we deliver on these things and how, and the end-user of our leadership experience is the employee. Right? So as a leader, it’s those who look to us for guidance that actually are the ones who are the gauge, whether we care or not because they feel the care.

It’s not just our expression. And it’s the end-user experience that makes it. See, it’s creative; there’s a creative element to it. That’s why it’s the art. Because it’s the brush strokes that we as individual leaders add to the mix of all of it. And so I think that when we think about why that, why cultures are created that way, I mean, I think we’re just all, unfortunately, it’s ingrained in us and all early leadership and management training where they say, this is how you do it, and you do this. And we kind of, it would just like pass down like a legacy of this, right? Well, I want to basically pass down this radical power of care. This it’s not candor; it’s care. And it’s, how do we do that for people all over the world. I want to create a new legacy, a legacy of care, and it’s not rocket science, but I can tell you this you’ll know it. When the person receives it on the other end, you’ll see it on their face, and you’ll see it in the results they deliver.

What Mistakes Do Caring Leaders Make?

Jenn DeWall:

Oh my gosh, I love that. And it’s just. I love that you made, you know, really, it’s not about perfection people, no one is expecting you. You likely already make yourself like, put all that pressure on to be that. But it is about trying, and out of curiosity, wherein your experience, or from your shoes, how do you think the pandemic has impacted our ability to show that we’re a caring leader? Like what are some missteps maybe, or just some subconscious, like errors that people have been making in that way?

Heather R. Younger:

I actually think the pandemic has helped in this regard. And that is because we have no choice but to lead the person that’s on the screen with the kid screaming in the background and all the, we just get no work done. We get nothing done. Suppose we don’t lead the whole, that person behind the screen. I mean, my dog walks in. My kids start yelling again. The other day was like. I was on the phone with somebody; they were doing a podcast of me. I was on their show, and they had like, their elderly parent was like coming through their virtual background. Like, this is what happens. And we have to have, now we have to say, Oh, that’s your child. What’s their name? I mean, if you don’t, of course, you’re looking at the idiot, and you won’t look at your care, but most of us were saying, Oh, what’s their name? Oh my gosh, you have a dog. What’s her name?

So now we’re actually getting we’re opening. The doors are opening, right. The window shades are opening. And so it’s actually made it easier in that regard, that the old idea of the leading the whole person. Now having those difficult conversations has not gotten easier for anybody if you haven’t felt just more comfortable leaning into that. Right? So this idea of, you know, how, when you asked earlier, well, how has it, how, how come it’s hard for organizations to have that and where to start? I think it’s, and there is definitely a discomfort with this idea of leading into these conversations, this, this going deep. I had a team member of mine before, have I called them to see what was going on just with some other project. And they were going in a full, they had a full-on anxiety episode, and it was happening right on when I was on the call with them.

And I didn’t go, okay, well, I’m sorry about that. So then the project, what was happening to the project? No, I didn’t do that. I set that need aside and just said, okay, I’ll take care of that another time. What is happening with you? Okay. You right now, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to get off the phone, and when you go for a run, I want you to do this. So I’m just immediately going into her as a person. Right. And yeah, most of you would be uncomfortable with that, but again, you can’t, you can’t get her back on track, which was solutioning from a rational place if you don’t start her from that place or him from that place. Right. So those are just the things I’m talking about. We’re all humans, and none of us are perfect. And if you lead that way, understanding that people are gonna have their faults, and no one’s going to show up perfectly every day. It just makes it. I don’t know. It just, it’s just a warmer, better ride. People want to come to work to be with you.

Leading Authentically as Complex Humans

Jenn DeWall:

Yes. I want to come to a place that someone could see. Because I think of many different work environments, and I’m sure there are other people listening that might’ve had a really bad day at work. And then you leave work in the way that I would— I was in tears. And then there’s a lot of judgment, right? There’s a lot of shame like, oh, I’m really mad that I made this mistake, or I’m really upset that I, you know, showed an emotional response. Right. And I think that it’s so important. I just love that you gave people permission to think about it is okay for someone to have a bad day. And by placing the expectation that they should show that anyone else should show up. As some superhuman is just unfair. But sometimes we do that. I mean, I feel like I go back to my earlier pieces of feedback in my twenties. Like Jenn, like, you need to do this, or you need to do that. Like, shut off this. And it’s like, but, but can I just be human? Like, I don’t understand this expectation that it adds. It only perpetuates the stress or the discomfort going into work.

Heather R. Younger:

And I love your humanity. I just love every bit of you. There are parts I didn’t even know about you. And then the other day you started singing before our conference started and I’m like, Oh my gosh, I already loved her. Now. I really love her. But that’s the thing is like, people need to feel comfortable. They were just letting loose. Now I know people think, well, authenticity. Oh, shoot, that means the jerks can be more jerkish. Like, now we’re allowing the jerks to say whatever they want or people to use racist comments. No,  like there are rules here. There are rules of engagement as it relates to respect, you know, human dignity, fairness. There are some basic things that obviously you have to pepper throughout this authenticity thing. We’re talking about revealing parts of yourself, letting other people reveal parts of themselves, you meeting them where they’re at, you embracing who they are.

Those are all important things, but there are some counterbalances there. And so as a leader, it’s our job to say, there’s a piece of this person and a piece of this person, and these two it’s all right that there’s some healthy conflict there. Right? But this thing right here is actually just not right. Like it’s not along with our value system at work. So how do I find a way to align their behaviors with behaviors we accept at work? And so there are all these, humans, we are complex. Right? There’s just so much, though, that you can peel back. And why not take more time to do that with your people?

Jenn DeWall:

Oh my gosh. I just, and I know that I’m coming back to this because it was something that I didn’t understand. I worked for a large fortune 500 company. I’m one of the few pieces of feedback I got where you need to be more vanilla. I’m more of a yes-man. And if you can imagine how difficult that would be, it just feels like, well, I am missing the mark in life here, you know, naturally, if you’re a driven person and you’re like, I guess, and I know there’s truth in feedback right. There absolutely is. Yes. But also, if we want that conformity, I just remember it in the back of my brain. Like you, you legitimately asked me to be a yes-man. And what would that do for innovation? What would that do for an ethical workplace, you know, but yet we somehow have this expectation that we want to create these- I don’t want to say clones because I don’t think it’s ever the initial intent. I think it’s a result of subconscious actions that you create. I don’t think there are leaders out there that are like, let’s create this vanilla workforce. Well, I guess if it was in the case of giving me that feedback, then I guess you might be striving for that. It’s just. I am so perplexed. Why it is such a challenging thing to understand that authenticity is a huge value to your team and organization. Yet we want to control it by making everyone the same, and I just don’t get it.

Heather R. Younger:

Yeah, I know. And I hats off to the organizations who have kind of been, been okay with, like allowing more of that individuality to come through. And, and also, again, it’s a constant, I’m not going to say this is easy coming out as a totally authentic organization where you’re allowing her to be authentic is not going to be an easy process because there will be a counter, there’ll be conflict. So the counterbalancing ways that people show up, I know this to be true. And, but it is, that’s why we get paid the big bucks. That’s why we have power and authority we have is we have to figure out the human relations side of things. And so we have to say, how do we, how do we balance the two? I’ve been talking a lot to leaders now about this whole idea of a return to work and that there are some who are returning to work, who have been at home and don’t really want to come back, or they’d only want to come back in a hybrid way.

And then you have the other ones who actually already have their team members who had to be at work the entire time who never left. Who’s been wearing masks nonstop for the last year? And then the leaders sitting in the middle, having these like squeamish really weird feelings. Because they’ve been at home too, and they’re having a hard time figuring out how do you stand in the middle of that and how do you decipher it? And how do you make sure that whatever your decision is, it’s fair? And it is your job to do that. It is your job to step out of your shoes and into the shoes of the team, the people that look to you for guidance. It’s just, that is the job we have. It’s not for everybody, which is why not everybody should be promoted as to be a manager or a leader of people. But it is a job that needs to get done in order for us to lead them well.

Jenn DeWall:

I, you know, and that’s such a valuable thing, it’s, it is an intentional effort to get the most out of your people. It is not just applying the fanciest tool or trend. It is something that you visit every single day. Oh my gosh. And I love what you just shared too. Not everyone is meant to be a leader, and you know what? That’s okay too. But yeah, we have this expectation that if you want to be successful, you’ve got to be a people leader. And I just like, you was inviting liability into your leadership, if you are forcing everyone to do that.

Heather R. Younger:

Yes. And actually, and I, and I’m going to qualify that statement too. I’m going to qualify my statement. If I said that, my statement would be this, not everybody should be a manager of people. Everybody should be a leader of themselves. So I want to make sure I call it that as anybody’s listening, I don’t care if you have a title that that’s really actually relevant is how do you show up in a more caring way to those you lead? It’s showing, listen. It’s showing concern and kindness for those who look to you for guidance and or those that look to you for leadership. It doesn’t have to come with a title. If you do have a title, though, you have even more power, and you can change that to be more positive power, not like the negative authoritative type of power. So I just wanted to qualify that.

Caring Leadership is Self-Leadership Too

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah, no, I think that’s so important. You don’t have to just be a leader of people to be a leader. It is. And I know that’s one of your first principles— self-leadership. Like, how are you showing up? What are you, how do you want to come across? What would be any last takeaways that you would want to share with our listeners about The Art of Caring Leadership? Because this is a powerful book, it’s powerful right now. I mean, as a millennial, I can say that this is absolutely what many Millennials want, many Gen Zs. They want to be seen as a person that has value. Like we’re done feeling like we’re just a cog in a wheel. No one wants to feel that way anymore. So what would be, you know, any last pieces of advice that you would want to share?

Heather R. Younger:

I would say one thing that I, I mean, I’m very, very proud of the book, but one thing I’m proud of is that we an entire support system, it’s kind of caring leadership ecosystem or the whole universe for people to enter into. And so we have a self-assessment that you take, there’s an invitation you get at the end of the book, after you take the self-assessment, you’re invited to come into the care and leadership community with other people, caring leaders in development, on the journey with you, so you’re not alone. Aside from that, there’s a caring leadership Academy. So that if there are some gaps that you want to fill those gaps, we talked about that you might be creating for your people, and you see it in his self-assessment. We have the online Academy that’s there. It’s based upon every behavior in the book. And you’re able to go take that. And then we also have caring leadership coaches, literally right there to work with you, to all of it, to say, you don’t have to be on alone generally. And you can have someone as a partner with you along the way. So I’m really super-proud of the book, but I’m proud of the entire support system. After the fact, remember caring leadership is taking daily actions to show concern and kindness for those you lead. This is not rocket science. I promise you. But what it does deliver for you are some hard-line results and people who will go over and above for you, no matter what.

Jenn DeWall:

Gosh, I love that in closing. Would you share one, maybe small thing that anyone could do today, or one or two that you could do today to show that you care?

Heather R. Younger:

Please go to your calendars right now. And if you have five team members, go set up your one-on-one meetings and make it be done in perpetuity.

Heather R. Younger:

Not just this thing, like, Oh yeah, I remember that I should do that. I’m going to actually make this uptake of recurring meetings every week with every direct report. And I promise you that you will not regret it. Yes. And don’t kids let her try to be, you know, unless you have to, but be transparent.

Heather R. Younger:

And Re-schedule it immediately or stop in, you know, spontaneously do something to make up for it.

Jenn DeWall:

So Heather, how do they get access to these resources? I know you just talked about the team. You talked about taking the assessment. Where did we go to be able to access that?

Where to Find Heather R. Younger

Heather R. Younger:

So there, I would say two places. If you go to TheArtOfCaringLeadership.com, you’ll actually get like four or five different downloads you can get from that site. Cool, like infographics and postcards that you can do, you can get. And then also you can go to theartofcaringleadership.com. And that one is where all the self-assessment the community, the Academy, the coaches, those, those are all there. So they all work together again as a whole system, you start with a book. I mean, it’s like a guide people who have read it and reviewed it so far, it’s like, this is you can go chapter by chapter. You can keep coming back. You’re going to put lots of stickies on it, but it is going to be your guidebook to show more care.

Jenn DeWall:

Thank you so much for writing this book, Heather, I, on behalf of anyone that’s also ever worked with that difficult employee, I hope that this also lands in the hands of office jerks, but of course, that we all recognize that you are, you provided a great level of tools, skills, and things that people can try so they can create the work environment where everyone can thrive. Thank you so much for writing that book.

Heather R. Younger:

Thank you.

Jenn DeWall:

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, featuring Heather Younger. If you want to connect with Heather and pick up her newest book, The Art of Caring Leadership, head on over to TheArtOfCaringLeadership.com. There, you can find additional resources as well as pick up your own copy of The Art of Caring Leadership. It’s also available on Amazon too for anyone shipping internationally. If you found that this episode was meaningful or, you know, someone that could benefit from hearing this podcast, please do not forget to share this with them. And of course, if you enjoy this podcast, don’t forget to leave us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service. As always, stay with Crestcom. We offer monthly webinars that cover a variety of different leadership topics to address your needs and the challenges of leaders today.