Just Be Kind

If I’ve learned one thing lately, it has been the importance of kindness in the workplace. And the power it has not only in the corporate or office environment, but within any team, across any industry. Make kindness a priority and an expectation within your organisation and watch your teams prosper and your results elevate.

Sounds simple right? That’s because it is. Too often we over complicate the key to success. We read the latest books and articles telling us the ‘12 things you must do to be a good leader’, the ‘7 things not to do in sales’, the ‘5 things your business needs to succeed’, and while those articles have their place, I say strip it all back and it comes down to one simple rule: Be Kind. Be kind to your people – your colleagues, your clients, yourself, and yes, even your competitors.

culture of kindness

This isn’t rocket science. We teach our children to be kind, to share their toys, to respect each other’s feelings and to use their words rather than lashing out at their friends or siblings when they are feeling frustrated. Yet often as adults we lose that patience and compassion in dealing with the people we love – our friends and family members, and also our colleagues. We walk away from arguments, rather than taking the time to understand each other’s perspectives and work together on an outcome. We assume someone has done something to make our lives harder and theirs easier, rather than looking at the bigger picture. We defend our positions and actions rather than opening our minds to change. We have superficial ‘water cooler’ conversations rather than taking the time to really get to know our colleagues.

WHY? Maybe it’s because our lives are so much faster, busier, more complex and competitive than they used to be. There is so much more ‘noise’ these days. I think of one of my favourite movies, The Shawshank Redemption. In particular the scene where Brooks Hatlen, a prison inmate since 1905, is released on parole in 1954 at age 72. The prison gates open and he steps out to catch a bus to his new home, a halfway house, and a job bagging groceries at the Foodway. He writes to his friends back in prison:

“Dear Fellas, brooks

I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry“.

What would poor Brooks think of our world now? Dominated by cell phones, laptops iPads and tablets. People are technologically connected and far less personally connected. There is a pressure to keep up, to get ahead, and to be seen to be successful. There’s always an email, text or phone call to answer. And we do it instantly, at the cost of real human interaction. Look around your local coffee shop, how many people are on their phones? How many couples do you see out for dinner, sitting next to each other but staring down at their phones? I know I am guilty of this.

We used to go and visit our friends, now we catch up on their lives through Facebook. But how much of what we see is real? People are like icebergs – we only see a small part of each person we meet, and only the part they want us to see, particularly on social media. That is unless we take the time to uncover more about them. This is especially true of our work colleagues – we get to know them on a professional level but most of us seldom make the time to get to know them beyond that; to understand what makes them tick and how they really are.

So I say again, we need to get back to basics. Slow down. Breathe. Quiet the noise. Get offline. Take the pressure off. Reconnect with the people around you, for they are what make the real difference in your life. At work, create a culture of kindness. Take the time to say a kind word. Ask a kind question. Listen and actually hear what is being said. Be open and unassuming. Clarify your understanding. Be generous in sharing your knowledge. Be brave enough to show your authentic self. Be real, Be Kind and the results will come.

And remember, kindness costs nothing, so spread that stuff around like confetti.

blog kind

What Makes A True Leader

Leadership ducklings

I’ve had a few people ask me recently what leadership means to me, and what I believe makes a good leader.

To me leadership is a way of life. It is both an instinct and an attitude, and it is ageless. By this I mean true leadership qualities come naturally, often develop at an early age, and last a lifetime. Leadership certainly doesn’t come with a job title. I guess I could say my leadership journey started when I was chosen as captain of the netball team in primary school. Ok, so that role didn’t come with massive responsibility, but it does make you think – what did the coach see in me to put me in that spot? And in today’s competitive environment, how do employers identify the real leaders to take their businesses forward, as opposed to the people who are just chasing the money and that flashy job title?

I believe that to a genuine leader, leadership is a tap he or she finds difficult to turn off. It is something that runs through every aspect of his or her life; it’s intrinsic in both the work and home environments. To be an effective leader though, you must choose to lead. You must consciously adopt a mindset of inspiration, transformation and influence. Leadership is about connecting, and acting on your desire to make a difference. It takes dedication and discipline. It is a constant balancing act. You must make time to listen, observe, reflect and dream.

A good leader recognises that everything we do is open to scrutiny and interpretation. From the things we say, to our body language or facial expressions, we are essentially a book that team members are constantly trying to read. We must be ready to ensure that your every day actions are consistent with our words, and we must be ready to accept that, as a leader, we are not afforded any ‘bad hair days’ or amygdila hijacks’. Unfortunately my first leader did not subscribe to the same beliefs. In fact, through her words and actions she had an incredibly negative influence over the team, adopting a ‘divide and conquer’ approach – something I have been conscious never to replicate.

There is no doubt that leadership is challenging. It is selfless. It is lonely. You must be ready to have courageous conversations, be sure to make informed decisions and not act on assumptions. Transparency and open communication is essential to building the trust of your team and you must always look forward, as a leader has nothing without a vision for the future.

To me a great leader demonstrates a high level of personal resilience but also proactively shares weaknesses or vulnerabilities for the benefit of others. To this end I take inspiration from former All Black, John Kirwan who has openly shared his personal struggle with depression in the interest of helping others to step up and ask for help. I also think fondly of my High School Headmistress, Mrs Benge, who suffered from a brain tumour but who used her experience to inspire each of the girls at school to believe in her abilities and to never give up. In fact it was her message that inspired me to return to the ballet classes I had quit months earlier, and I will never forget receiving a congratulatory card from her after my final exams, just weeks before she died.

So, can anyone be a leader? Yes. Are YOU a leader? Absolutely, if you choose to be. Whether or not a leader will succeed and create a group of followers though, will depend on that person’s ability to be devoted, transparent, inclusive, and most important of all, genuine. It is those traits I would be looking for in a leader on my team. And maybe, just maybe, that’s some of what my netball coach saw in me.

great leaders