Some time ago I promised a dear person to my heart that my next story would be positive; he preaches avidly about the power of kind words. I do not necessarily think that the past five stories have been negative. Yet, they may be brutally realistic.
There is always value in bringing a sight of light into the corporate world most of us are part of whether it is making us, breaking us, or breaking us to make us (as absurd as it sounds!).
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The following post is derived either from my personal experience (and the experience of friends) or from what I have encountered with clients in various parts of the world and across sectors.
We all heard about toxic workplaces, destructive feedback, authoritarian leadership, and blame culture. Nevertheless, what we do not come across very often is a culture where kindness is recognized.
For so long, power (and what it comes with) was associated with strength. I have experienced – primarily through mindfulness practices and consistent coaching – that the correlation is fundamentally false.
Kind is the new strong. It basically costs you less (as an individual and as an organization) and it helps you achieve better results. We live at times the world is harsh and divisive, aggression and destruction seem to be contagious. Why wouldn’t kindness be contagious too?
Jamil Zaki (author of the War for Kindness) is a notorious psychologist at Stanford University. He coined the expression “positive conformity” after thorough research demonstrating that “kindness is contagious, and that it can cascade across people”.
If you had doubts: “an extensive scientific literature review sponsored by Dignity Health and conducted by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University reveals a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates kindness holds the power to heal. We now know that this often overlooked, virtually cost-free remedy has a statistically significant impact on our physical health.”
One of my favorite short videos about this same topic is by the founding editor of Fast Company – Bill Taylor. Take three minutes to allow Taylor to convince you “why kindness is good business” if you are not yet convinced.
What does it mean to be kind? Why does it matter anyway while we are all busy and under pressure?
Kindness has two definitions. One refers to kindness as the combination of friendliness, generosity, and consideration for others. Most importantly, the second one refers to acts: kind acts.
Perhaps it starts with leaders picking their words wisely as language has proven to shape culture which then translates into rituals, actions, programs, initiatives… until it becomes Business As Usual.
Just like most people who enter the workplace at just before their 20s, the pace was quite common: episodes of steady pace and then others of hard work. Over time, the periods of hard work increased in frequency and intensity (for various reasons). This often came with intermittent attempts to slow down and re-think.
I have discovered that what truly one needs so we learn to rest rather than quit is: kindness. But, this (still) seems like too much asked in the corporate world.
It was hard to find people who say the right words to help. As much as kindness is not necessarily and solely embodied through words; I thought it would be useful to share the case of finding the right words when your colleague is bereaved as an illustration.
What is holding organizations back?
I have not come across an organization where kindness is a factor in how we lead despite the wealth of research about what that means and how it impacts individuals, organizations, and societies.
I still ignore why kindness is not widely adopted in the workplace. Start with yourself (by the time organizations wake up!) and in your relations with peers, subordinates, and other stakeholders.
Make sure moments are shared, if possible, collectively
Acknowledge your colleague’s feelings. Whatever those are. Strong feelings are normal and human – in case you were doubting). Offer to listen
Enable them to speak (or cry) safely
Give honest feedback. Be brutally honest yet compassionate
Surface problems quickly. Do not assume they will fade away (they do not, they accumulate and grow). Do not assume someone else will handle them (avoidance is more natural)
Our contributor Ken McKellar reviews a book about his personal hobby. Tell us about yours!
This book is an invitation to women who are oftentimes overly fearful of being seen as “too much” or “not enough”. The authors urge women from all walks of life not to back off prematurely and not to worry if they step over the line.
Women tend to tell themselves stories about their emotions and their bodies. Reading this book helps any women rewrite her story to her own advantage.
In her book Never Give Up, Joyce Meyer quotes this speech as an example of a winning state of mind. Her book is about how to create it.