The COVID-19 pandemic changed the business landscape in a matter of weeks. Both inside and outside of the workplace, obstacles and challenges quickly surrounded even the most successful organizations. The changes forced every leader to radically rethink how they defined risk and resiliency.
In a digital age, the most damaging words repeated in any organization are, “But we’ve always done it this way.” It was time for a different approach that would drive teams and organizations forward. As UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak advised, “Now, more than at any time in our recent history, we will be judged by our capacity for compassion.” But how can caring leadership help mitigate risks?
1. Encourage Risk-Taking
Although it initially sounds counter-productive, the most significant risk for an organization is not taking any risks. Risk-taking goes hand in hand with empowerment, but many employees fear making mistakes because of the potential ramifications.
Those who lead with their heart will invite risk-taking and allow thoughtful mistakes. As a result, team members who report to this type of leader are more likely to innovate and collaborate to overcome business challenges since they feel free to do so. Caring leaders encourage different opinions and points of view. In doing so, they organically increase awareness of potential risks and collectively make better informed and wiser decisions that reduce risk.
By building a more collaborative culture, leaders provide employees the tools to create a more cohesive picture of risk. The caring leader wants to see and unleash the best ideas from his or her people. To do this, they instinctively remove the barriers to innovative thinking, such as fear of mistakes or being ridiculed for voicing opinions. Although caring leaders empower their people to take risks and let them arrive at their own conclusions in their own way, they are still a resource for their people when they need guidance or direction.
2. Empower Your Employees by Being a Resource
There is a difference between empowering people and abdicating your responsibility. Caring leaders empower those they lead by allowing them to be courageous to move the business forward in responsible ways. But they should also stand as a resource or as a sounding board. The leader might check in with their team member or just be waiting in the wings, ready to help.
Many mistakenly see empowerment as giving up control. Alternatively, it should be seen as allowing those you lead to show themselves and you that they can achieve great things with little oversight. Sit with your people and talk to them about projects that they can lead without you. Set out to let them know you trust them to do good work for the team.
When attempting to mitigate risks across an organization, leaders need every employee to make smarter decisions. Empowered teams proactively reduce risk by making good decisions and resolving problems.
3. Reducing Risk by Building Resilience
Caring leadership can help organizations lower risk by building resilience, the ability to recover from or adjust to unplanned changes. But first, leaders must face adversity or challenges before they can truly begin to build resilience and respond to inevitable problems in a positive way.
Caring leaders show empathy and guide those they lead by helping them find the courage to face the things they fear. Together, they can explore what is possible and overcome obstacles to thrive and survive in a post-pandemic world. They empower those they lead by encouraging them to be courageous in moving the business forward in responsible ways. Caring leadership helps employees learn from what is happening around them and see the challenges and obstacles in their paths as opportunities to grow and progress in their careers.
4. Look for the Greatness in Those You Lead
When identifying and managing business risks, an organization's employees are often considered its biggest liability. Whether it is a lack of training, cybersecurity awareness or perceived workplace culture, blaming employees is much more likely to increase rather than reduce risk.
Rather than ignoring the signs of greatness in their people, caring leaders search it out. Then they go out of their way to leverage the gifts of those they lead. They meet with their people to ask what they can do for them instead of expecting performance without the proper care. While some managers see employee engagement as fluffy nonsense that does not offer any return on investment, caring leaders recognize that it plays a critical role in mitigating risks.
Caring leaders communicate the importance of risk management and work with their people to enhance their skills and competencies. They encourage their teams to discuss potential risks and proactively think about how they can proactively prevent them. By flipping the conversation from adverse risk to seeing greatness in your people, you can collaboratively focus on positive outcomes.
For too long, leadership teams have been vocal about how employees represent their biggest threat. By contrast, every employee wants to feel heard and valued. This disconnect is arguably a significant risk in itself. Caring leadership provides a refreshing opportunity to mitigate risk by making every employee your greatest asset, rather than just another threat.