Jill Pett: Being human – why business leaders need to show the human touch

One of your team suffers a family bereavement, illness, or is going through tough times in their personal life. How do you respond? Call in HR, ignore the situation or take time to speak to the employee? Unfortunately many business leaders are often cautious about expressing genuine empathy in these more personal situations and, as a result, fail to recognise the significance of ‘human moments’ in the workplace.

Increasingly we’re operating ‘remotely’ – even when in the office – via mobile phones and emails. Your face time with colleagues is constantly being eroded and the opportunities for leaders to act and respond as human beings in real time are becoming more elusive – but these moments should be seized.

A human connection

Fundamentally, people crave real human connections – it enhances trust. If you entrust to someone how you feel rather than how you think, you’re allowing the person you lead to receive something about you as a person. It creates followership and a sense of belonging and being valued. In business, it makes people feel that they are operating in a community of people rather than just a commercial machine. It immediately enhances engagement and increases their commitment both to you and the organisation.

If you talk to people who’ve happily been at a business for a long period of time and ask about their jobs, they will very often talk about how good the organisation or their boss was when they needed particular support, for example when a family member was ill, their partner died or they had major surgery. These are the responses that they remember and the moments when leaders can make a real difference to people’s lives and their commitment to the organisation. How brilliant their bosses were in these human moments outweighs whether they met their sale targets or the number of contracts won.

Being more human

You can and should bring your authentic human self to your leadership. The workplace might be dominated by conversations about systems, processes and policies, but it’s still very much about people. To be a successful leader, you need to properly connect with others and ensure you don’t miss those human moments.

It’s not just good business sense, it’s…well…simply about being a better human.