Kindness may be the most important factor in your career success that isn’t taught in a university or considered a skill that you need to list on your resume.
You’re not normally being assessed directly for your ability to be kind in your interactions with teammates, management or customers, yet it’s exactly how your colleagues are measuring you when it comes to filling critical leadership roles or assigning responsibilities.
The rise of emotional intelligence (EQ) has brought a little more attention to how emotions impact the workplace, yet it’s still not as specific as a deep dive into kindness and how it spreads quickly throughout organizations.
As the best-selling author of “The Profit of Kindness,” I’ve been fortunate enough to document entrepreneurs and people around the country on the true impact of kindness.
The good news is that you have the ability to develop and practice kindness as a leader and see just how much of a difference it will make for you and your team. When training or passing on the art of kindness to team members, the most effective method is to show, not tell. Here are seven best practices to help get you started.
1. Build a Connection
It’s essential that you prioritize relationships with team members and customers to help develop a mutual vision. As a leader, your ability to communicate your vision and how it relates to everyone in your organization is your most critical asset. However, that’s not the only step. If it’s just a one-sided conversation, the lack of connection becomes an environment that fosters chaos, anxiety or avoidance.
Value the time that you’re spending with others in your organization. Ask open-ended questions that relate to your vision or goals and take the time to listen to how others respond to you. Communicate from a place of mutual trust, understanding and a desire to support those around you as much as possible. Avoid distractions and assure that the time you’re spending with your team is dedicated to your mutual needs.
Your relationships are the most important asset you have and should be treated as such. As you place your own personal importance on connection, your communication with team members will be seen as authentic rather than disingenuous. Your team will adopt this ethic far more easily when they know you “walk the talk.”
2. Show Gratitude
It’s essential for everyone within an organization to show appreciation and recognition to team members and customers. Feeling unappreciated is a leading reason why people leave their jobs and why customers move on to greener pastures.
Gratitude must extend beyond “token gestures” that might feel fake or self-serving. The roots of gratitude begin with a specific understanding of your teammate or customer’s language, conflicts and biggest needs.
From there, you have the opportunity to laser focus on those problem areas. Be generous with compliments, encouragement and solutions. Show your willingness to be a positive and productive leader who can take on challenges with a good attitude. Research has shown the power of gratitude and how it can lead to increased productivity, better engagement, loyalty, customer satisfaction and safety standards.
3. Practice Patience
With numerous distractions per day, it’s easy to understand why leaders and their teams are becoming increasingly impatient. After all, the demands seem higher than ever!
That said, your job as a leader is to reinforce a particular standard. Reflect daily on areas where you can improve your patience and where just a little more time or focus will make a difference. Be willing to take an extra moment or two before you send off a text or email to understand how it might impact the other party. Adjust your approach by thinking and observing where impatience can have a negative impact.
Leaders must keep the focus on optimism, humility and forgiveness. This doesn’t take as much time as you might imagine!
4. Be Flexible
This involves setting aside past failures and embracing new rules and ideas. The workplace is constantly evolving which means that you should embrace new solutions whenever possible. Combining flexibility with patience can give you the opportunity to take an extra moment, or as much time as you need, to consider your position on problematic issues. A flexible environment is a sustainable environment.
5. Be Generous
By being generous with your time and resources, you can create a memorable presence for others and receive more help in your moments of need. You will be defined by how you treat time and resources that others share. You’ll also be remembered when you’re generous with your knowledge, network or experience. Avoid holding back, falling into a scarcity mindset or feeling threatened by those around you. Instead, embrace that everyone has a valuable role to play and that you demonstrate how everyone should be treated and appreciated.
6. Show Compassion
Leadership starts with understanding and communication. It’s up to you to understand the various strengths, personalities, needs, conflicts and worries that exist within your organization. Instead of backing away from them, understand exactly where they begin. Be aware that the main source of dysfunction within companies comes from a lack of compassion. Everyone should be working toward the same goal.
7. Lead Positively
The best leaders are the “sunshine” of their team. They’re the calm, peaceful center that creates an environment of trust and productivity. However, even the best leaders slip up, which means it’s important to maintain an active network of mentors, teammates or friends that can provide counsel when you feel overwhelmed or unfocused. You’re responsible for your own emotion and the biggest influence on others around you.
Though work environments are far more collaborative than they were in generations past, it’s important to remember that kindness and other important soft skills should begin and be reinforced by leadership. You’re the compass that guides the outcomes within your organization.
The Bottom Line
Practicing kindness and realizing its importance to your effectiveness isn’t optional. It’s the key to your own growth as much as it’s to those you lead. Recognize the importance of each of these practices and put a plan in place to make sure that you’re taking on these challenges wherever possible. Even in the most challenging work environments, you’ll quickly see what a difference kindness will make for you!