The One Principle That Can Help You Transform Your Organization
Creating a culture of generosity comes down to helping your team thrive. Here are three ways for bringing more kindness to work.
One of the movies we've become overly familiar with over the course of this pandemic is Groundhog Day — the one where, Phil, a self-absorbed TV weatherman, finds himself trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again. We've all been living this film; we've all been looking for a way out.
But the lesson it offers is this: Time is a precious commodity — choosing to spend our days in kindness and in service to others is what ultimately makes the difference. By the end of the film, it's Phil's mindfulness and compassion that eventually sets him free.
I've been thinking about this message a lot lately. As a leader to 300+ employees spread across different continents, I believe being kind to one another is the glue holding my company together.
Beyond its virtuous qualities, according to Tara Cousineau, a psychologist and author of The Kindness Cure, kindness has the exponential power to transform how we think, feel and behave in the world.
Now, as many organizations move from a fully remote workplace to a more hybrid environment — with some employees working from home and others at the office — it's more vital than ever that we practice this principle.
How we benefit from being a little kinder at work
Over the course of this pandemic, many of us missed out on what researchers refer to as "serendipitous encounters" — those spontaneous moments by the water cooler where you could quickly congratulate a coworker on a job well done or compliment their latest idea. All of these instances of connection afforded us a sense of recognition. In fact, research finds that we're happier on days when we can say "hi" to a colleague in the hallway.
While we're missing these interactions with remote work — kindness never loses its value. In their illuminating article in Harvard Business Review, co-authors Ovul Sezer, Kelly Nault, and Nadav Klein noted that we shouldn't underestimate the power of kindness at work — no matter where we're located. They point to other research showing how being recognized at work helps reduce employee burnout, absenteeism, and improves employee wellbeing.
"Receiving a compliment, words of recognition, and praise can help individuals feel more fulfilled, boost their self-esteem, improve their self-evaluations, and trigger positive emotions, decades of research have shown," the co-authors wrote.
Kindness fosters a culture of generosity
In many ways, the past year and a half served as a wake up call: More than simply sustaining productivity, I've found that it's kindness that drives growth and innovation.
"In workplaces where acts of kindness become the norm, the spillover effects can multiply fast," write Sezer, Nault and Klein. "When leaders and employees act kindly towards each other, they facilitate a culture of collaboration."
At my company, JotForm, I've witnessed countless instances of my team taking this principle to heart. They've been thoughtful of each other during meetings, have reached out to one another during a particularly challenging week, and noted colleague's strengths during our Demo Days. There's no doubt in my mind that all of this empathy and consideration is what's allowed us to continually evolve. Here are three ways to bring more kindness to work.
1. Lead by example
Many years ago, long before I had my own business, I had a supervisor who used to preach the importance of different virtues. "Be respectful," he'd often say. But his actions were anything but.
There's this saying "Do as I say, not as I do," that I couldn't disagree more with. As leaders, we should be practicing what we preach. Otherwise, we'd be setting an example of hypocrisy that would spread like wildfire.
"People are naturally sensitive to the behaviors of high-status team members," researchers Sezer, Nault, and Klein noted. "By giving compliments and praising their employees, leaders are likely to motivate team members to copy their behavior and create norms of kindness in teams." All to say, it's on us to model what we want to see grow in our organization.
2. Give space to boost morale
Physical proximity isn't a condition for exercising our kindness skills. We can do this by uplifting our teams no matter whether we're in person or interacting by Zoom. For example, taking a few extra minutes during a meeting to acknowledge each other's work gives space for more social connection.
And I don't care how rushed your schedule might seem — there's always enough time to give a few words of appraisal.
3. Humanize your communication
We've all lived through and continue to live through traumatic events. Many of us will have no idea what the true impact of this pandemic has had on those around us — so it's especially important to show kindness in the way we communicate.
Terse emails that lack genuine emotion no longer cut it (they never did, even in the Before Times, but even less so now). Author Tara Cousineau noted that we are wired to care, but how this natural inclination for kindness flourishes is largely up to us.
Or as the researchers put it: "The power of kindness can mitigate the ill effects of our increasingly online social world. It is an essential leadership skill that can cascade through people, changing the culture of the workplace along the way."
In an email to my team recently, I expressed how much I know we all missed each other. And it was the honest truth.
I believe kindness, in large part, is forged from our underlying sense of gratitude and purpose — something far greater than ourselves — and something that should always be reflected in the way we treat one another.
Related: The Value of Kindness in Business
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