The Everyday Business Series: The Wondrous Effects of Organizational Kindness
In answer to our Impono Followers asking for guidance on "every-day matters," we created "The Every-Business Series," an intense-read series based on 1-2 Points and created specifically for Impono's followers. Keep your feedback coming so we can be sure to continue addressing your questions!!
Ahhhh... what a nice picture that is. Looking up, shedding our minds from what we see before us and instead focusing on what is possible, even with clouds. The blueness of peace, the harmony of the clouds fitting in together despite such different shapes and sizes, the semi-solid feel of water, the clarity of the scene and the possibilities of wishes and dreams.
We all hope for that in any environment we are in. Most of us do not imagine asking this of our work environments, though.
As startup and small business leaders, it is especially important to cultivate an environment of possibilities, as that is the basis for openness to new ways of thinking that leads to problem-solving excellence.
It also means respect for different views, a deep desire to fulfill a mission, and often a simple yet complicated emotion: kindness.
Kindness is a remarkable emotion. You learn it by feeling it. People believe in things they never thought possible because of it. Moods change instantly, hope stirs, and spirits lift. When you have all of those things ingrained in a culture, the environment truly becomes one of possibilities.
The Organizational Impact of Kindness
Each of us has worked in a challenging environment. No matter who you are, you have done some kind of work where something was awful: temperature, smells, hours, managers, co-workers, furniture, rules, customers, actual work or workload (etc).
Chances are the people, or even just one person, was the redeeming quality of that organization, making the place bearable or perhaps even OK or good. "The people" might have been a good manager, or co-worker, or vendor, or customer.
It could have been the person who delivers mail or packages, or even the caterer you use for meetings. It might be the facilities person who always answered your calls and did his or her best to meet or exceed your needs. The resounding gifts of people either shielded (at best) or softened (at worst) the effects we felt while working in an awful place, and if you think back and consider the qualities that made that difference for you, I would bet at least one of those qualities was genuine kindness.
Kindness is demonstrated in many ways, and it remains one of the cultural elements of organizational behavior that is so sadly underestimated, yet so remarkably impactful.
In my teachings at Northeastern University last Fall, one of my students (as we discussed the impact of leadership and culture in a biotech business) shared "kindness" as an important leadership quality. I was stunned at the simplicity and obviousness, and also inspired because while we talk about that with our Impono clients as a primary mover for success, it occured to me-- mostly from my Impono team's experience in previous lives-- how little most organizations talk about and place value on kindness.
My Impono team and I recently discussed two items that can create a culture of kindness that will likely and positively impact an organization's performance.
Kindness Item #1:
Abandon the mindset that being kind is being weak
or that you should only give it if you receive it
We at Impono talk about kindness a lot, especially as part of our "generosity culture."
I would like to think it is because after decades of our experiences in various companies and industries, we clearly see that the companies regularly innovating, with high marks for employee productivity and wellness, are those that focus on openness and respect as cultural assets.
This isn't a direct "kindness" focus per sé, but the kindness piece is usually in the form of hiring and developing great people who were essentially kind, extending acts of respect and courtesy from and to all levels, and focusing on feedback loops that included how people felt at work and how they could feel their best-- whatever that could be for any particular day.
Coming from that background, it is also what we focus on for our client teams, for our special projects, for our student teams, friends and families.
We like being kind-- it feels good. That doesn't mean we are soft, though. It means that when we need to be tough, there is an existing foundation of trust that we are doing so for the greater good and not to hurt or demean anyone.
Try to give constructive feedback in an unkind environment and you will see immediate defensiveness followed by counter-productivity, and that is a shame. Kindness is one of the easiest things to be, and one of the greatest motivators of all time.
Kindness brings strength, and does not require reciprocity in order for it to work wonders.
Kindness Item #2:
Think about the effects of kindness as a way to define it,
then lead by example
"I love my job. I can thrive. I can be the best version of myself."
"My customers mean everything to me, and I feel supported with the right policies and supervisor support to bring the best to my customers."
"A day when I can solve problems for the betterment of a client AND my company, and feel fully supported by management to do so, is a good day."
"Even when corrected, I feel like it's to help me get better, and by the next day, when I see how much my manager cares about my work, I realized that yes-- I could do better, and yes-- this is the right place to do it in."
These are not pie-in-the-sky statements, or pollyanic expressions of employees who are drunk on corporate culture. These are not made-up statements to prove any particularly point here, but derived from one of the best companies we've helped to transform.
One of the most remarkable observations we made within one company we worked with was the inherent kindness in all that they did, starting right from the founder and small business owner. It wasn't a stated Value hanging on the wall. They didn't sit down or even define it. In fact, they all did it more than they talked about it.
When we arrived it was to consider how they could reset, and when we looked at their values (which were very good) it was obvious to us that they truly lived by them: they described them based on the effects they would have on their business.
They even capped a Values definition with a quote from a known employee.
But the kindness piece... that was in the air they breathed. It was threaded through each and every one of them. Kindness was a mainstay of the organization and that un-defined "something" that set them apart-- part of their secret sauce. It ruled who they hired, and you saw it demonstrated in action without anyone ever uttering the phrase, "we are kind, we believe in kindness, we act in kind ways."
They believed in the effects of kindness, then led by example. Every employee.
So when you look at that blue sky and think of all the possibilities, think also in terms of the strength of kindness-- and not just for the for-profit organizations, but for the non-profits also:
What does kindness do for organizations lacking resources and time and energy?
What does kindness do for teams when they are in need of another team member, but are not yet able to hire one yet (or find volunteers)?
What does kindness do to inspire new thinking, improve problem solving, and tight-up a team?
It is so obvious, yet not so obviously focused on. And it should be.
We know that launching a new or transforming an existing organization isn't simple, but it can be easier with the right advisors and doers. If you have additional questions about this topic or how it can impact your business, contact us. Let's see what we can do for you.
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