“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
This quote, one of my all-time favorites, sums up the call we all have to be (genuinely) human with each other. The genuine part means we’re not kind simply out of a sense of obligation – to check off a few metaphorical boxes of what we think is expected. We’re not kind out of a sense of manipulation, just to get what we want. We’re kind because we genuinely want to be there for another person. This means we have to let go of our protective armor separating us from others and just be good humans.
A recent Gallup survey revealed a startling statistic: only 45% of employees feel their employer cares about their well-being. That’s less than half.
Nearly two years into a global pandemic, there is no doubt that leaders and employees continue to face challenging times in their work relationships, heightened by the ever-present threats of COVID.
Kindness as a Leadership Strategy?
Back in late 2020, Boris Groysberg and Susan Seligson highlighted the unprecedented trials faced by leaders in a Harvard Business School article. And one influential leadership strategy had seemingly been neglected: kindness.
It is a time to think out of the box, for sure, to solve the complexities the pandemic has brought upon us.
But let’s not forget about each other in the process.
We cannot overlook a basic yet powerful principle that works wonders everywhere: kindness.
We’re all overwhelmed and stressed out – every single one of us, even when some might appear “fine.” Not one person walking this earth is unaffected.
Many of our employees are doubling up on work – not only working from home, but also homeschooling kids and playing caregiver roles to children and parents alike as well. Those with no support network may feel isolated.
Our cherished routines have been upended as the world tries to cope, yearning for some normalcy during a seemingly never-ending pandemic.
In the midst of such trying times, it has never been more important be genuinely kind to each other.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Philo
Kindness: A Soothing Balm in Today’s World
In the hectic pace of life, we sometimes overlook the simple – and wonderful – power of kindness.
Because it is so simple. It’s not something that we can buy. It isn’t something necessarily hard to do. But we do need to be in the mindset to do it. And that often requires a specific intention when we are stressed-out and overwhelmed.
Instead of being caught up in negativity, overlooking the good that is taking place, remember that kindness is a powerful tool.
Harvard Business Review reminds us of the far-reaching benefits of kindness such as:
- Presenting a win-win to everyone: the Giver and the Receiver. Being acknowledged at work lifts an employee up and helps to lessen burnout and absenteeism.
- Boosting self-esteem and optimism about circumstances – which can result in a ripple effect of positivity.
- Deepening the meaning of life. When we’re kind, we’re contributing to someone else, and as a result, how others perceive us is shaped. As such, we are creating meaning for ourselves and others.
- Raising the vibration of any team or organization where it is present.
A Harvard Business School article aptly titled “Good Leadership is an Act of Kindness,” reminds us that the positive effects of kindness go even further. For example, bosses who are kind may even lengthen their employees lives by lessening their stress, which in turn leads to a healthier heart.
Not to mention that when leaders are genuinely kind, more people will want to do great work for them, creating a virtuous snowball effect. We all know what it feels like to be part of the opposite phenomenon.
The bottom line: kindness (or lack thereof) can have a tremendous impact on our lives.
Holding Back on Compliments? Witness Its Power.
Kindness is catchy. Once we receive someone’s selfless words or actions, we often suddenly want to do our part to spread it. That’s the beauty of it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Consider Stephen Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, who realized success was much more than just vehicles.
Success was about caring – about everyone. “Every encounter with the brand must be as extraordinary as the machine itself,” said Cannon. With no rule book to follow, Cannon organized a grassroots effort centering on kindness.
It caught on. Random acts of kindness took place:
- A dealer closed a sale and noticed that it was the customer’s birthday. When the customer came to pick up the car, there was a simultaneous birthday celebration.
- Another customer had a flat tire on the way to her son’s graduation. She drove into a Mercedes dealership but discovered there were no replacement tires in stock. The service manager jacked up a new car in the showroom, removed the tire, and sent the mom on her way to the graduation.
Harry Hynekamp of Mercedes Benz – who became the first general manager for customer experience – took it further. Realizing that pride in the brand was not as strong as first thought, he knew he had to act when he discovered nearly 70% of front-line employees never even drove one of the cars off the lot.
He changed that by creating a program so that employees could experience the thrill of driving a Mercedes. He put 800 cars in the field, and employees chose their time with the car to correspond with important events in their lives, like weddings or picking up family members.
Reactions were out of this world, Hynekamp said. People had gained a sense of pride in their work.
Taking time to really show we care about others – how they’re feeling, what’s important to them, how their needs can best be met – can transform all of us.
Leaders, Show Your Kindness & Empathy
There’s no secret formula for kindness. There are myriad ways to show it and experience it. Everyone can be kind.
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
– Teddy Roosevelt
As a leader, get back to the basics of kindness by taking just a few steps:
- Sincerely ask “Are you okay?” Show a willingness to help, provide comfort, and look for signs of distress.
- Answer “I hear you.” And when someone talks, really listen. Listen for what their needs might be rather than how you would solve their
- Seek to understand, “What can we do to help?” Offering a helping hand can make a difference in anyone’s day.
- Declare, “I’m here for you.” Be there for your employees – with true empathy.
- Say “thank you”– and mean it.
By the way, it’s probably obvious but nonetheless so important that I’ll say it anyway: when we’re engaging with anyone, being present is key. Our undivided attention (think: no side glances towards that phone, listening with half an ear, etc.) can, in itself, be an act of kindness. And, often, it’s the presence piece that can be the most challenging.
How About Starting Off the New Year With a Kindness Resolution?
And while it is indeed so important to be kind to others, we must always remember that being kind starts with ourselves. We can’t give from an empty well.
Here’s an article on the importance of self-compassion and why it matters to every leader.
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart
Inspire your day with simple leadership tips & strategies. Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Moves, delivered fresh to your inbox every Tuesday.
Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.