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.
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:
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.