In a world of selfies, status updates, emojis and self-promotion, leadership grounded upon kindness sounds revolutionary. We need more of it, writes Jane McCarroll.

 

I love the early months of a new year. It is the time when we set our aspirations for the year ahead. It is a clean slate and anything seems possible.

Some of my aspirations never change, I’ll always want to be thin and rich, but most of all I want to be kind. Believe me, it is so much easier. And so worth it.

I love the quote: “In a world where you can be anything be kind”. If there is one thing I would like to be remembered for, it’s for being kind.

You only need to scan the headlines to see that, for far too many people, the workplace is not a kind place at all. The New Zealand bullying stats are terrible with one in five workers feeling harassed. That’s about 400,000 workers and that’s simply awful. Imagine all that suffering and angst that needn’t be. So much negativity which creates bad karma.

There is no place for harassment and bullying in a workplace that is grounded in kind words and kind acts. Kindness combats meanness and bullying.

There’s plenty of hard evidence that shows when we put kindness at the core of our leadership we get better results. Compassionate leadership drives innovation. What’s not to lose?

What can we do to build our kindness muscle? Kindness can be cultivated and it feels good. Acts of kindness rarely cost anything and improve positivity in the workplace. Isn’t it in everyone’s best interests to do everything we can to ensure our people are happy?

I like the idea of random acts of kindness, but I also want to encourage building on them. Here is my plan.

Having empathy: Empathy is an enduring life skill which will smooth your path wherever you go and in whatever you do. At its simplest, empathy is the awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It builds strong and healthy relationships, and it enables us to work more effectively with others who may be unlike ourselves by virtue of age, gender or ethnicity. Empathy feeds compassion which is another essential life skill.

Nurturing connections: I think our first responsibility as leaders is to actually care about the success of others and I cannot stress the importance of nurturing healthy connections.

Connections lead to better ideas and being genuine builds trust. So much angst can come from a breakdown of trust, and without effective communication there can be misunderstanding, frustration or even disaster and nobody wants that.

In whatever we do, we are people dealing with people, and it’s how people feel following our connections that count. I am genuine in my desire to care about the success of others. We’ll go further together.

Celebrate the little wins: My dad once worked for a huge impersonal American company where some had a saying, “Doing well is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. It gives you a warm glow but nobody notices.”

I don’t want you to feel like that. I love to shine the light on a job well done. My goal is to share the love and my appreciation for the contributions other people make.

Appreciation breeds appreciation. It builds our self confidence, self esteem and bolsters our self image. It also gives us energy and fosters opportunities to thrive. Think of a time when you were appreciated and how you felt about it. I bet it was good. It’s also fun. And we all need more of that.

Having gratitude: Gratitude and kindness go hand in hand. I don’t always feel like being grateful, but when I am having cranky thoughts I try and think what I’d say to a friend in that situation and it helps me apply a kinder lens to my own situation. Positive emotion improves our health and sense of well-being.

“Feeling and expressing gratitude turns our mental focus to the positive, which compensates for our brains’ natural tendency to focus on threats, worries, and negative aspects of life.” – Psychology Today.

Our inner dialogue can sometimes be our biggest critic and I’m keen to put a kinder lens on that. What advice would we generally give our younger selves? Having asked a few colleagues and friends, some said they’d be a lot kinder to themselves. My thoughts too.

Kindness is contagious. When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind. It’s how we raise our kids to be compassionate people. As leaders, we must make a conscious choice to slow down and find calm in the chaos.

Moving our actions away from individuality towards kindness will help us to lead with truth and clarity. Kindness is a value not to be confused with weakness or lack of strength. In a world of selfies, status updates, emojis and self-promotion leadership grounded upon kindness sounds revolutionary. We need more of it.

We can’t all be thin and rich. Alas. But we can all be kind. Bravo. Let’s do it.

 

Jane McCarroll is the strategic partnership lead for the Skills Group including IMNZ, The Institute of Management New Zealand, helping leaders stand up and lead since 1946.

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