Kindness is magic.
It’s my absolute favourite thing. Ever.
Teaching my kids to be kind is my number one mum goal. It’s the top thing that I believe will make them better human beings.
In my new work, we want to help businesses be better.
If you put this statement into business language, we want to help businesses be more productive, to attract and retain top talent and to create cultures where people are willing to engage fully and give their all to their work.
It seems that you need to use these buzzwords to be taken seriously. You have to convince leaders and financial directors that investing in their people is something that isn’t simply a nice extra but is in fact essential to business growth.
Kindness and business success don’t naturally sit together in our minds.
Imagine we are playing a game of word association in the style of Mallet’s Mallet (here’s a recap of the rules just for the joy of remembering Timmy Mallet saying this on Wacaday during school holidays)
"Mallet's Mallet is a word association game where you mustn't pause or hesitate, repeat a word or say a word I don't like, otherwise you get a bash on the head like this ..... or like this ...... . And it's the one with the most bruises who loses. Look at each other and go Blaaaaaah!"
If Timmy shouted “business!” we probably wouldn’t immediately reply with “Kindness!”. And I’m pretty sure if we did, we’d get bopped on the head.
The corporate, business world is no place for kindness. We are here to work and get paid. That’s the transaction. I pay you a salary and you do the work. Anything extra is a nice to have.
But I believe that kindness is essential to business success. As part of my mission to make work better, I want to make business kinder.
This feels like something that should be an easy sell. Most of us are decent human beings who want to be liked by the people around us. Why wouldn’t every leader of a business embrace the thought of inspiring their workforce to be kind to each other? I believe it’s because this doesn’t fit with the picture we’ve been shown of business for years and years. The story of work being competitive and combative and that to get to the top you need to hide your emotions and climb up the ladder leaving your colleagues behind. This view has been encoded into our brains.
Business plays hardball. It’s not a place where we need kindness. Only the tough succeed.
But more and more, we are seeing that the hardball model just doesn’t work.
Teams perform better with kindness
You only get the best out of a team of people if they all have each others back. Put one ‘Knobby-know-it-all’ in the mix, and you destroy the ability for the team to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Leaders perform better with kindness
The best leaders are not the shouty, mean leaders. This type of top-down leadership is outdated, and, more importantly, counterproductive. The best leaders understand that their role is to bring out the best in their employees. The main thing that stops people being their best in work is feeling fear. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of letting people down, fear of showing any sign of vulnerability or lack of knowledge. Leaders who are supportive and kind are able to create high-performance in the people around them. They behave like a safety net for their team.
I won’t let you fall.
Stress reduces with kindness
Studies show that stress and anxiety at work have less to do with the work we do and more to do with leadership. When we feel safe and supported our stress levels decrease, regardless of the scale of the task at hand. We can take on huge challenges if we are surrounded by people who have got our back.
We all need to face up to the fact that the modern way of working is doing us real harm:
127 million hours of work were lost last year due to mental health-related absence
Only 13% of UK employees report feeling 'on top of their work' (compared to the European average of 42%)
In 2016, stress accounted for 45 percent of all days lost to sickness absence.
The statistics above show us that too many don’t feel supported at work. We feel overwhelmed and out of control. The smallest gestures of kindness can calm feelings of rising panic. We need more of this.
Kindness show us that we’re not alone. That everything is going to be OK.
People perform better with kindness
Kindness is beautifully, magically contagious. Studies show that if you are kind to someone, they are then more likely to be kind to someone else. This passes on even if it’s a stranger that you are kind to - that stranger is more likely to be kind to another stranger because of your actions. What an awesome ripple effect!
Kindness is good for the soul. It makes us better humans. To be kind, you are shifting the focus away from what you need and putting the other person's needs before your own. In a world where we are in danger of becoming obsessed with crafting our own perfect life story, compassion for others is needed more than ever.
Businesses perform better with kindness
If you are reading this and still thinking that your business needs to focus on productivity not kindness, the great news is that the two go hand in hand.
Research by the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) found that teams who work in a supportive, kind, respectful environment:
Possess 26% more energy
Are 30% more likely to feel motivated and enthusiastic about acquiring new skills and being exposed to new ideas
Express 36% more satisfaction with their jobs
Are 44% more committed to their companies
It’s not rocket science. Workplaces where people are compassionate and supportive of each other have more vital, energized, and motivated employees. These employees do more within the company, benefiting bottom line, customers, and of course, employees themselves.
Kindness has the power to change everything.
The novelist, Henry James articulates my love of kindness far better than I ever could in his quote:
‘Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.’