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What does it mean to provide a duty of care to those you depend on most?

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Simon Sinek has quoted that leadership is "putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Its not about being in charge, its about taking care of those in your charge." For a number of years elite sport has explored what it means to provide a duty of care to the people we depend on the most, the athletes, but this transcends across all businesses and industries.

Exploring a duty of care always take me to the beautiful buildings, dating back to the 1300s, that surround me. When I look at these buildings, I get rooted to the notion that we are merely passing through a passage in time. Whomever has a duty of care for that building in the present will need to respect its history, keep it from damage and harm and ensure it is in a robust place when it’s handed over to the next generation and the generation after that to care for it.

The same could be said of the people in your care as they transition in, through and beyond your company. What do you know of them before they came to be with you in the present? What would they you have done to help shape their future? Would they say you focused on making them better at their job or a better person? Maybe they will be better people as a result of being better at their job but how intentional is that outcome for the people you manage and lead? How do you ensure that an individual will leave your company in a better place than when they joined you? And what would they say about the level of care you gave them as they left?

Someone that I hugely respect so eloquently said that someone’s passage of time with you is like an hourglass. The first bulb of the glass is their time before you knew them, and the second bulb is the time after they leave. And the bit in the middle that connects the bulbs is their time with you. How do you ensure as a bare minimum that someone has a safe passage from one bulb to another? And beyond that how do you proactively ensure that someone leaves you and your organisation in a better place than whey they joined? Not everyone will say that they have become a better person as a result of their time with you and your company, but at least you can say hand on heart that you tried.

It might be about integrating wellbeing programmes in to your business, but having been a wellbeing coach in elite sport I have always felt that it goes beyond a programme or an individual to try and provide this duty of care. It’s about what every individual can do to take responsibility for the care of someone, regardless of title or role. How can you create an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work? How can you listen without judgment or giving advice? How can you purposefully and intentionally have duty of care conversations to ensure someone feels like you care for them and want to develop them as a person? How can you integrate holistic development objectives as strongly as you integrate performance development objectives? How do you induct them in to your environment to ensure that they know providing them with a duty of care is at the heart of your time together? How do you create the time and space for reflective practise to help facilitate someone’s learning from these work experiences to enrich their whole life? And how do you role model the duty of care that you want to see in others?

It certainly isn’t always easy to do but even by trying someone will know and feel that you are providing them with a duty of care.

If you ever want to explore this concept of a duty of care for you as an individual, manager or leader or team please feel free to email me at to arrange a time to talk.

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