viernes, 23 de agosto de 2019

How do you practice kindness at work?

Yes. These are a few of my flowers. You can compliment them if you want. 

Last month, the headline of this article caught my attention (yes, I also fall for the dramatic click bait sometimes). It was the story of a woman abducted in Austria, and she empathized with her captor through a random act of kindness. Complimenting his orchids started the conversation that ultimately saved her. 

Around the same time, I read this post in the Instagram account of Humans of New York (I never miss an opportunity to say that this is one of my favorite social communities of all times). In the post, the subject reflected on how the lack of empathy and love towards him while growing up led him to develop an aggressive personality and desire to hurt others. Until he found someone who cared. 

I know there is a lot of wrong in both stories, and I know there are more complex situations that cannot be solved easily within these people’s minds and life choices; but beyond that, I was more interested in the common lesson that both cases can provide: kindness works and it’s good for everyone involved. 

My train of thoughts after reflecting on these led me to the following ideas that I’d like to share with you:

The “good” we don’t give

We all have our problems and we’ve all experienced hard situations in our lives that led us to be the way we are today. But some of us are luckier than others, and I guess we’ve got more to give more. 

Some people never had that someone to teach them better. Some people never find a kind person that with one gesture or words can inspire them to step out their holes of internal misery. Therefore, their lives never change, and they never get to experience hope. 

It is difficult, I know. And the more we get, the less we are open to share with others face to face, because with more having comes a bigger fear of losing, of being robbed, betrayed or hurt. We are scared of smiling to the homeless, to keep giving to the beggar that keeps on asking, we don’t want to talk to those who look too weird… We develop some kind of fear to do well. 

More dangerously, we forget that kindness is a habit that needs to be exercised, for our own good and for the good of others. 

Kindness at work

But practicing this doesn’t require you to become the new Mother Theresa neither Gandhi. It is about being courteous even with those you don’t know, being thankful to those who serve you, showing appreciation for the ones around you… and little by little making a difference in your personal and professional interactions. 

Early in my career, I learned from a bad boss the importance of that Spanish saying: “Se atrapan mas moscas con miel que con hiel”. The translation would be something like “You can catch more flies with honey than with gall”. 

Bad leaders think the opposite, but the truth is that kindness (sweet as honey), drives more and better results than shouting, being pretentious or prepotent (bitter as gall). Those bosses that lead by fear might get the work done but never get the best out of their teams. Subordinates would either fear them or hate them. 

Meanwhile, good leaders can be assertive and kind at the same time, and get their teams to work towards common goals. They even get them do more because they want to help, because they feel appreciated and thankful. They will ultimately get things done because they want to, not only because they have to. 

Enabling confidence in your team

As another example, kindness can also give comfort and confidence to shier team members, encouraging them to excel. 

Recently, I participated in a workshop that required a lot of brainstorming. The first rule we received from the workshop facilitators was that we were not allowed to criticize others’ ideas. Everyone should be listened to, and all ideas were welcomed. 

During the first few exercises, only the same people dared to speak. But by the second half of the workshop, the more introverts ones felt more and more confident to participate, and the outcome was great. They couldn’t stop coming up with great things and there was a change in their attitude that was even reflected in their body language. 

I hope this gives you something to think of. To ask yourself how do you experience or practice kindness at work?

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