Cultivating a Culture of Caring: A Blueprint for Organizational Success

By: Kendra Brodin, Esq., MSW, Founder & CEO, EsquireWell

Listen to the article as read by the author here.



In today’s rapidly evolving legal landscape, where demands and stress levels are high, a “Culture of Caring” is a vital ingredient for organizational success and individual well-being alike. As lawyers and legal professionals, we’re intimately familiar with the relentless pace, the tight deadlines, and the high-stakes nature of our work. In such an environment, where the pressures can be immense and the challenges complicated, fostering a “Culture of Caring” isn’t just a luxury—it’s a necessity.

At its core, a “Culture of Caring” encompasses both proactive and restorative (or, reactive) strategies. Proactively, it involves modeling compassion, engaging in courageous conversations, and cultivating psychological safety and belonging. This proactive approach sets the foundation for a supportive environment where individuals can thrive both personally and professionally. And when individuals face challenges even when those proactive strategies are in place, it’s important to know how to support them in getting the help they need.  (The key points from this article are available in this one-page printable handout.


Why Now? The Importance of Prioritizing Well-being
In today’s post-pandemic world, the importance of prioritizing employee well-being has become more apparent than ever before. With changing work styles and setups, organizations must adapt to support the evolving needs of their workforce.

Moreover, the presence of multiple generations in the workplace highlights the need for inclusive practices that accommodate diverse perspectives and preferences. By embracing and building a “Culture of Caring”, organizations can create an environment where all individuals feel valued, respected, and supported in their personal and professional growth.

Furthermore, there is a growing emphasis on well-being in the legal profession, driven by organizations such as the Institute for Well-Being in Law, lawyer assistance programs across the country, law schools through well-being programming and curriculum, and associations such as the American Bar Association through their Well-Being Pledge initiative. By addressing the intersection of performance and well-being, organizations can enhance employee engagement, retention, and overall satisfaction and success.


Proactive Methods: Modeling Compassion and Cultivating Belonging
Modeling compassion involves leading by example, demonstrating empathy, and actively showing concern for the well-being of colleagues. It’s about creating a workplace where individuals feel valued, respected, and supported in their personal and professional growth.

For instance, leaders can prioritize regular check-ins with team members to discuss not only work-related matters but also personal challenges and successes. By showing genuine interest in the lives of colleagues, leaders can foster trust and strengthen relationships within the organization.

Cultivating belonging goes hand in hand with psychological safety. It’s about creating an environment where every individual feels included and valued—a place where they can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment or rejection.With this sense of belonging, individuals feel a sense of connection and camaraderie with their colleagues, fostering collaboration, mutual support, and a willingness to ask for the help they need.

Leaders can promote belonging by encouraging diverse perspectives, celebrating achievements, and providing opportunities for social interaction and team bonding. By creating a sense of community within the organization, leaders can enhance employee engagement, well-being, and connection to the team and organization. 


Restorative Strategies: The WALS Action Plan
Despite proactive efforts, challenges may arise that require a more restorative or reactive approach. The WALS Action Plan—Watch, Ask, Listen, Support—provides a framework for supporting colleagues in times of need.

Watch: The first step is to watch for signs of challenge that might indicate a colleague is struggling. These signs can include changes in behavior, increased stress levels, or withdrawal from social interactions. By remaining vigilant and observant, individuals can identify when a colleague may need support.

Ask: Once signs of challenge are identified, it’s important to ask open-ended questions with compassion. Approach the colleague with empathy and understanding, creating a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. By actively listening without judgment, individuals can validate their colleague’s experiences and provide reassurance that they are not alone.

Listen: Truly listening involves providing a supportive presence and acknowledging the colleague’s feelings without judgment. It’s about being present in the moment, offering a listening ear, and demonstrating empathy and understanding. By practicing active listening, individuals can strengthen their relationships and build trust with colleagues.

Support: Finally, the last step is to provide meaningful support. This might involve offering practical assistance, connecting the colleague with resources or support services available through the organization, or simply being there as a source of comfort and encouragement. By taking action to support their colleague, individuals can demonstrate their commitment to fostering a culture of caring within the organization.


Practical Tips for Implementation

Lead by Example: Demonstrate empathy and compassion in your interactions with colleagues and be a role model by taking care of yourself and asking for the help you need.

Promote Inclusivity: Create opportunities for diverse voices to be heard and valued within the organization.

Prioritize Well-Being: Encourage work-life balance and provide resources for managing stress and burnout.

Foster Social Connections: Organize team-building activities and events to strengthen relationships among colleagues.

Provide Support: Offer practical assistance and emotional support to colleagues in need, and don’t hesitate to seek help from HR or other support services when necessary.

These key points are reflected in this one-page printable takeaway.

Remember, it’s also crucial to care for yourself and your own well-being. That’s what a “Culture of Caring” promotes – a workplace where individuals are encouraged to care for themselves and care for each other. It’s the old “oxygen mask” metaphor – you can’t serve anyone else if you haven’t taken care of yourself first.

Cultivating a “Culture of Caring” requires a collective effort from all members of the organization. By prioritizing empathy, understanding, support, and practical tools, legal organizations can create workplace environments where their team members can thrive both personally and professionally. 

Kendra Brodin is the Founder & CEO of EsquireWell, a leading lawyer well-being and performance consulting firm, providing education, strategic guidance, coaching, and online learning tools to help lawyers be happier, healthier, and more successful. 

Prior to founding her company, Kendra was Chief Attorney Development Officer at a large national law firm where she managed firm-wide lawyer training and development as well as well-being initiatives. 

Kendra is a frequent presenter, coach, and consultant for small, mid-sized, and large law firms, legal departments, and law schools, and she teaches a course called “Well-being and Professional Formation” at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. 

With a master’s degree in social work, a law degree, and nearly 20 years of professional experience in legal professional development and well-being, Kendra brings together the “people” side and the “business” side of the law as she guides legal organizations and their team members to thrive now and in the future.