Kindness in business sounds weak and weird. It's not like there is a weekly reality show following the lives of kind business leaders changing the world. No, the role models are the icon leaders who appear charismatic in public, but in reality are tyrannical narcissists. They may look good on the cover of Forbes, but they're a nightmare to their subordinates cleaning up the broken glass and shrapnel they leave behind.
However, social media is actually forcing a change toward authenticity and vulnerability. Websites like glassdoor.com are rating the CEO and everything else about the company. Leaders are not getting away with poor behavior like they used to.
So I'm curious. What would the rating of your character and your leadership presence be?
If you don't rank a 9 or 10, then my suggestion is to begin the journey into true authentic kindness. Here is why I am challenging you in this area.
Most of us who are out front leading are strong willed, driven, and focused; we get results. It is a necessary trait. In no way do we want to change it. However, the back side of that greatness is an impatient side that is harsh, critical, and down right mean when you are not getting the outcomes you are driving forth. Do you get criticized all the time for being impatient?
I don't know about you but I've been working on being “patient” since my third grade report card, and I constantly feel I'm failing in this area.
Patience Is Defense, Kindness Offense
What's the relationship between patience and kinds? Here is my take. Patience is a defense move. It is not doing or saying the things I know will be destructive and controlling and waiting. Hard and necessary. Kindness is an offense play. It is proactive. It takes initiative. It is intentional. It is something I can practice and get good at.
Do you think people respect a leader who is disrespectful of them? They may work when you are around and they may do the minimum required to keep their job (aka just enough to fly under your wrath radar.) Until a better job comes along.
It is kindness, not harshness, that gets people to follow and respect you. People work hard and long for a leader who truly cares for them and who demonstrates it by kindness and respect with dignity. It doesn't mean that kind leaders do not require their people to stretch themselves nor does it mean kind leaders are slow to discipline, speak truth and hold staff accountable. In reality, they do it more because they want their people to grow in skills and abilities.
Think about it: kind parents don't give in to their children; they train and discipline them daily because of the love and vision they have for them. Speaking truth with love and compassion is one of the greatest forms of kindness.
How to Be Kind
You already know how to be kind. But here are some reminders.
* Think before you speak. Be gentle with your words.
* Be considerate of others. Open doors, look people in the eye, be polite.
* See people as humans not objects. Once we make someone an object we treat them as such. Each person has their own story of hurt, pain, and need. Get to know their story.
* Be friendly. Seriously, just walk down the hall and smile at someone as you say hello. Speak to someone in the elevator and genuinely care.
* Positively reframe situations and see what is right in the situation first. It's natural for quick problem-solvers to go after the thing that's wrong and fix it. I promise, you can get to that, but discipline yourself to see what is right in something before attacking the problem. You will get better results.
* Offer encouragement and words that add value to life vs. harsh words that strip value from others.
* Remember that communication is 93% nonverbal. People know if you care, so don't be fake. Look for something you can genuinely say and mean.
* It starts with you. If you are having a visceral response to a discussion of kindness, you are probably too hard on yourself. It sounds sappy, but practice being kind to yourself. Truthfully, driving yourself with negative self-talk and an “it's never good enough” attitude is draining the life out of everyone around you. Stop it!
Kindness will lead to long-term profit, and if practiced in tandem with true leadership and accountability skills, you will see the results on the bottom line. I have found that kindness is a key character trait in every strong leader who last for many years and leaves a legacy that inspires through the generations.
True Life Coaching will be offering more thoughts on kindness this month at our blog. We would love to hear your success stories about trying one of the helpful hints. And please, leave more hints on how we can grow in kindness, or shout outs to any leader you know that practices true kindness. Nothing weak or weird about that!