I never understood the adjective ‘random’ when it comes to acts of kindness- I buy more into the say by the Dalai Lama : ‘Be kind whenever it’s possible. It’s always possible’.
One of the things my husband and I try to constantly teach our 2 year-old son is to be kind.
Interestingly, he understands kindness as in sharing, being gentle in manners, saying please and thank you, and giving us cuddles instead of biting …Well, the biting has not disappeared yet- but we are persevering with the lesson…
Researcher Amy Cuddy emphasises the power of warmth and connection in leadership to be able to gain trust.
I remember the first time I met one of the best bosses I had in my corporate career- Nicky Costa. The way she shook my hand- using both hands, warmly, and bending slightly forward towards me- stuck in my mind. I was sold. I knew I wanted to work with her. In fact, she never failed to be kind and warm for the whole time we worked together.
As I just came back from a month travelling in Japan with my family, so writing about kindness makes completely sense and it’s perhaps a must.
Kindness has a different meaning in Japan, that we might not easily appreciate here in the West.
There is a profound concept called ‘wa’ which means harmony and to which the Japanese live by. Keeping the harmony in groups, respecting everyone’s feelings and being kind with purpose is part of their culture.
However, that means often to sacrifice direct honesty and communication to avoid breaking the ‘harmony’. Historically, being able to work harmoniously as a group had always been important for the Japanese, who – for long time – were isolated from other countries, hence they had to rely on themselves only- (them as locals)- when it came to agricultural work and production.
Although fascinating, I don’t perhaps embrace ‘wa’ fully as I like my straightforward and transparent conversations, and I believe it’s important to be clear in relationships. But transparency needs to have a meaning and a purpose.
I want to be able to show up as myself, without hurting someone else. Hence, kindness is essential.
But what does it mean being kind as a leader?
Here my top 5 points:
- Being honest
- Recognising (a ‘thanks’ can go a long way)
- Being genuinely interested in someone else life
Caring: sometimes in a work relationship we forget that behind a laptop there is a human being. We all have a life outside work, we have challenges, desires, but also ideas, aspirations, limits. Connect and understand, before leading- as Amy Cuddy says.
Being honest: the ability to give honest feedback and to transparently share with our people creates trust. Why? Because it shows care and trust from our side first. It’s the basis for an authentic and mature relation, leaving little space for ambiguity and resentment.
Recognising: recognising someone’s else efforts and success is kind. In fact, it’s SO kind. It shows appreciation and respect. It shows the other person counts and is valuable. How did we end up forgetting to say thank you?
Acknowledging: instead of ignoring. This is so simple and yet so hard to do, apparently. Acknowledging someone’s words and presence. If someone writes you an email, reply and acknowledge you have read and listened. It’s kind. No matter how busy we are, we would always reply back to someone’s ‘good morning’, right?
Being interested in someone else’s life: ask questions. Show interest. Ask if they need support. ‘How are you? How was your evening?’ It’s equal to say: ‘I see you as a person, not just as someone unnamed who works here.’
I see kindness as a strength in a leader, not a weakness. Being kind does not exclude being strong and assertive, in fact it probably just reinforces that.
Kindness has an amazing ripple effect with the power of creating a culture of creativity, collaboration and transparency. Hence, improving the experience of employees.
We teach our children to be kind, compassionate and to develop empathy.
Why are we not (always) keeping these skills and qualities as leaders?
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