Three Things Are Important

Three things in human life are important.

The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.

And the third is to be kind.

                                                                – Henry James

Good Afternoon:

Last Sunday morning as I sat in Church, our priest, Father John Francis, began his sermon with the quote above.  As the week revealed itself, more and more it became evident that his words needed action. That being said, we should strive to let this thought drive our daily actions and interactions.  Likewise, this quote served to guide my thoughts, conversations and reading as I prepared this week’s newsletter.

Donnalynn Civello is a New York City-based author, life coach and blogger.  Her recent post, “The Key to Effective Leadership?  Constructive Kindness” utilizes a conversation with a client as a means of sharing the important role kindness plays in our approach to success and our desire to have an influential life.  Civello’s client is a 40-something that has been brought onto the management team of a non-profit with the charge to, ‘help streamline things’.  She admits that during the interview there was a tense environment, but she never expected the resistance that now exists.  Now, after six months she feels a sense of animosity on the part of her boss and many members of the team. When challenged by Civello, “But you saw the writing on the wall didn’t you?  You must have sensed that it was a bit of a challenging and fairly ‘unkind’ environment?”, the client responds, Unkind?  I mean come on, for God’s sake, it’s business!  Who thinks about kindness during an interview”.  Following a few more exchanges, Civello offers a guiding idea, “You are missing a key ingredient in your approach to success – kindness!”  She then provides some suggestions:

• Kindness starts in your own backyard – Don’t focus on preaching global goodwill and kindness until you start in your own backyard with the people you interact with on a daily basis.  We can make a significant difference in the world just by showing up with small gestures of kindness to everyone we encounter on a daily basis.

• Kindness is contagious – Try holding a door for someone, smiling at a stranger, saying thank you to the person serving you, reaching out to lend a helping hand. By giving the gift of kindness, for a brief moment, we bring levity and lightness to another’s world.  This simple act encourages others to do the same.

• If you want to make a difference in the world, start with yourself – Don’t waste energy pointing out the faults of others or focusing on their unkind behavior.  It simply brings you down to their level.  Be the model that others look to and wish to emulate.

• Remember, kindness isn’t a contest – It’s not about how many acts of kindness we do, or how many people are impacted by our actions.  If you can consciously affect one other person’s life in a positive way on a daily basis, it makes you a better person.

• Kindness doesn’t have an ego – If you’re seeking acknowledgement that you’ve been kind or done the right things by others, you fail to understand the nature of kindness. 

• Kindness naturally does the right thing, it has no need to be right about it – Kindness has nothing to prove, whereas the ego has everything to prove.  When giving feedback or fostering change we motivate others not by proving our point, but by being constructive and prioritizing kindness in the delivery.

• Being kind isn’t about doing something, its about who you are being while you do it – We can all get caught up in the daily grind and become so goal-oriented that we forget to be kind.  The most influential people and the best leaders understand this concept and employ their emotional intelligence (EI) ritually.

CIvello ends her post with a powerful thought, “You can be hugely successful and amass all the wealth and richness in the world, but if you’ve lived a life devoid of loving kindness and connection to others, it was a life wasted. When all is said and done, the simple truth to becoming influential in life is learning how to be kind.”  Now there is a thought to embrace!

Many of you have heard the saying, “What good shall I do this day?  Chad and Laura (my son and daughter-in-law) have this phrase posted in their kitchen, and for a number of years I have endeavored to let this mantra guide me as I move through the day.  This week I read a post entitled, “Leading With Kindness” written by Caroline Loughrey.  She proposes a interesting revision, “What big-hearted thing can I do today?  Loughrey leads with a synopsis of the traditional take on strong leaders.  They are generally taught to lead with their heads and not with their hearts.  Traditional leaders are strategic, tough, rational, bottom-line oriented people who focus on the business, not its people.  In fact traits such as compassion, empathy and kindness have been seen as weaknesses.  Yet, recent research examining successful leadership in turbulent economic and social times calls for different type of leader, one who is able to exhibits those same traits – kindness, compassion and empathy.  Loughrey’s post cites the work of former US Military Chief of Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powel’s, It Worked for Me.  Powell maintains that kindness isn’t about being soft.  He shared that every soldier is taught to respect and fear his/her drill sergeant, however the best sergeants incorporated kindness while instilling strength and confidence in their soldiers. This kindness is not about just being nice, rather it is about recognizing the care and respect due every person.  By building strength through kindness we better enable the tough decisions that all leaders make and we witness kindness’ edge, one that encourages honest critical feedback that is constructive and serves to support the growth of a team member.  Midway through her post, Loughrey poses a question, “What happens when we put kindness at the center of our leadership?”  She then shares evidence that kind leaders get better results:

From a health cost perspective – A British study revealed 30% lower risk of heart disease, 27% reduction in sick leave, 46% reduction in disability benefits and lower levels of anxiety and depression among employees.

Enhanced trust of leadership:  According to a Harvard Business School study, employees feel greater trust with leaders who are kind.  Additionally leaders who project warmth prior to establishing their competence are more effective than those who lead with toughness and skill.

Profitability and Productivity: A research study conducted in Australia concluded that out of all the various elements in a business, the ability of the leader to be kind, “to understand people’s motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanisms to allow people to be as good as they can be,” had the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity.

Now there’s a ROK (Return on Kindness)!

Bill Taylor, whose work I shared a few weeks ago, “Four Kinds of Leader Who Create the Future”, and the founder of ‘Fast Company’ is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review(HBR).  This week I read a number of his articles examining the important role kindness plays in the business environment.  He continually  cites kindness as a necessary trait of successful leaders and organizations.  I found two related videos compelling.  In the first, “Why Kindness is Good Business” Taylor shares how a small act of kindness can leave a lasting impression.  He also proposes that perhaps the best recipe for the negative environment in which we find ourselves today is to do something beautiful.  He shares a Boston Globe story of iron workers, who through their daily actions of kindness gave children suffering from cancer a few moments of joy and a towering symbol of hope.  The video based on this story, “Strong as Iron  challenges us to answer this question, “ Why can’t each of us, in our daily work lives take a small cue from those big-hearted iron workers?”  I’m challenging you!  Beginning tomorrow make kindness a part of your daily work life and make some small gesture, be it a word or an action, to bring hope, optimism or a smile to someone else’s life.   

Embrace the Challenge,