Today is World Kindness Day. Considering the rise in civil discourse for all sides of the political spectrum, and escalating incidents of violence in offices, schools and public spaces, we need a huge dose of kindness more now than ever before. Being kind is defined as having a sympathetic, helpful nature by Merriam-Webster (as opposed to the Urban Dictionary, which takes a decidedly THC-focused bent). Displaying this quality isn’t just the right thing to do, or a nice “add-on” when you can find it at work – research has proved that kindness can create a competitive business advantage. Here are four ways to create a kinder workplace:
1. Recognize the inspirational power of kindness.
When he decided to step down from his dream job hosting “The Tonight Show” in January 2010 after they made a time slot change to make room for a Jay Leno program, talk show host Conan O’Brien was in a difficult place. His parting words on that final episode were “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” O’Brien’s focus on kindness really connected with people nationwide, fueling countless inspirational memes. Kindness has also become a rallying cry for positive change. Disney|ABC created their influential “Choose Kindness” Campaign (#ChooseKindness), to help kids, families and influencers end bullying. Now consider how displaying authentic kindness will inspire your team members. As noted in this story by Todd Nordstrom, Content Director at the O.C. Tanner Institute, how you impact people depends on how you treat them. He writes that being kind at work can inspire greater results, better ideas and improve relationships.
2. Encourage kind behavior.
Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of healthy snacks and granola bars company KIND LLC, ensures his company runs on it. The company’s mission statement is to make the world a little kinder. Their culture reinforces that value by recognizing each other’s acts of kindness with “Kindos,” emails that are sent to an internal address and they are pinged immediately. As a result, people are encouraged to celebrate being kind and look for more opportunities to exhibit that behavior. As Lubetzky says in this article from Forbes, “it has become clearer that empathy and kindness offer a distinct competitive advantage. When I understand people with ease, I can accomplish more in both my business and my private life. Being able to access these skills is especially valuable in those moments when you feel threatened and your fight/flight instinct kicks in. If you can ask yourself questions like, ‘where is this person coming from?’ then you’re able to get to a more productive place quicker, thereby creating value for business and society.”
3. Make kindness a prerequisite of leadership.
The old stereotype about the jerk in the corner office leading a corporation through nothing but grit, testosterone-fueled dominance and a willingness to throw anyone under the bus to increase profits is outdated. Emotionally intelligent, servant leaders understand that kindness isn’t about being soft or weak, but rather connecting deeply with your people by genuinely caring about them and the world we live in. In this 2017 Inc. com piece about 10 outstanding CEO’s practicing servant leadership, kindness is one of the common traits they demonstrate. Cheryl Bachelder, the former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, topped the list. As detailed in her book, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, she helped transform a stagnant restaurant brand using servant leadership, consciously creating a new workplace that treated people with respect and dignity while challenging them to perform at their highest levels. Bachelder and her team listened intently and responded to the needs of restaurant owners. Collaboration increased, and people were valued. This turnaround success resulted in Bachelder receiving the 2015 Norman Award from Nation’s Restaurant News for outstanding leadership.
4. Practice random acts of kindness.
Little moments of thoughtfulness can go a long way. Did you put a fresh pot of coffee on for others before a meeting? Write an email of praise to the supervisor of that co-worker who always has reports ready before you ask for them? Here is a great list of 52 ways to show kindness at work and Mindtools has created a video featuring ten ideas for random acts of kindness. Pick one and give it a whirl at work today. Bet it will give you a burst of goodness about yourself to be kind to others and see the positive impact of those efforts.
How have you seen kindness transform a work place – or the lack of it leave a culture in chaos? What is the kindest culture you’ve been a part of?