Chris shared with us that when making decisions based on care and empathy (balanced equally), he has never felt these (right) decisions have compromised productivity or profitability.
- The importance of caring in the workplace
- Organisantion’s unity and the balance of performance and care
- A caring leader’s strengths
The following article is based on our interview with Chris Sutherland, ex-CEO of Programmed, an organisation that supplies labour-hire to industries such as mining and public works, on The Caring CEO podcast. He lives and breathes care and empathy.
We gained many valuable insights when Graeme Cowan, WeCARE365’s co-founder, interviewed Chris for The Caring CEO podcast episode #7.
Caring in the workplace
Chris believes that caring in the workplace encompasses more than just looking out for your colleagues. It also involves showing concern for customers, as well as the community and individuals you come into contact with. There are various ways to demonstrate care, according to Chris, as he sees it as a broad concept. See some of the examples below.
Ingraining care in the workplace
Programmed implemented programs like senior employees checking on injured workers within 24-48 hours to ensure their wellbeing and psychological safety upon returning to work. A simple phone call/check in can make a big difference in relationships, helping employees feel cared for, connected with work still and can provide valuable information, including picking up things you didn’t expect. For example, it highlighted the impact on employees’ families at times. Chris recalled that during a check in call, a supervisor was talking with the injured employees partner and heard that they had been using the company car for their children’s sport drop offs, but since the injury, they had lost the car and were having real difficulties. Because they called, the supervisor now had the opportunity to make arrangements to help while the employee recovered.
Another program called safety conversations required office employees to engage with unfamiliar colleagues on a monthly basis, fostering care and support. Around 50% of participants felt genuinely cared for by the company.
The sense of oneness in the organisation
Chris and his organisation led by example to demonstrate oneness. They celebrated and shared stories about employees who showed care and empathy, sharing multiple examples to reinforce these values. They believed that a caring culture in the workplace is not just about what is written on the boardroom wall, but also about the stories that are shared. They even made sure that the stories being told aligned with the examples they wanted to promote. For instance, a female project manager shared a story about driving home in a ballgown and noticing a green rubbish bin on fire on the side of the road early in the morning (2am!). Despite her husband’s disbelief, she took action to ensure the safety of those at home and used a fire extinguisher she had in the car to put it out. This incident emphasised the significant impact of psychological safety in the workplace and taking ownership – “you see it, you own it”. These stories were regularly shared on the intranet and in group talk news, recognising the power of storytelling in fostering a caring culture.
The balance of performance and care in the organisation
Chris understands the importance of balancing performance and care in the organisation. Cultivating the right culture is crucial, even more so than physical assets or advanced technology. This aspect was (and is) a top priority for Chris and the organisation, with 25,000 employees who value psychological safety. How they collaborate and interact with customers are at the core of everything they do, with safety being a key component. Care and empathy always come first, even when faced with challenging situations. Chris ensures that this value remains central to their operations, without compromising productivity and profitability. As a leader, Chris prioritised the wellbeing of employees and fosters psychological safety through consistent decision-making based on care and empathy.
The strength of a leader who cares
Chris prioritises doing the right thing to maintain a psychologically safe environment, even if it means going against established processes or guidelines.. Care and empathy are his strengths, and he believes that his actions as a leader have a significant impact.
Chris’s example and modelling of self-awareness makes a tremendous difference throughout any organisation. As leaders, making decision with self-awareness, care and empathy allows us to set a positive example and support individuals facing challenges, rather than just following rules.
To learn more about building psychologically safe teams and culture,, explore our WeCARE Psych Safety training, helping managers to build more psychologically safe teams.
You may also be interested in our WeCARE Manager training to build mentally healthy teams: https://wecare365.com.au/wecare-manager/
To learn more about WeCARE365 and The Caring CEO, visit us here: https://wecare365.com.au/
We create simple skill-building programs that help managers lead mentally healthy teams. We believe that the #1 priority for every leader and team is to be more caring and mentally healthy and to enjoy growing together. In the very best teams, people care about each other, have each other’s backs, and enjoy each other’s company. We know the best learning solutions are those that ‘everybody gets’, which are easy to roll out, promote, and provide ongoing practical support. If you would like to see a demo, please book here.