Kindness in Business: Reflections on Tragedy

My 7-year-old son wanted to take canned food to school today as part of the holiday food drive.

He explained that some people don’t have as much food as we do, and that it’s good to give them food so that they can have something to eat this season.

His sweet, non-judgmental kindness overwhelmed me. And for the umpteenth time in the past few days, I was fighting back tears.

The Importance of Kindness

You see, my son is exactly the same age as so many of those babies who were murdered last Friday. My son is in the 1st grade, so this tragedy has hit me hard. My son also happens to be a little “different”, so I worry constantly about whether he will be shown kindness or meanness outside the safe bubble of our home, our family, and our friends.

I am so thankful for heroes like my son’s 1st grade teacher, who make a tremendous effort to show and teach kindness. She tells her students that everyone is a little different in some way. She doesn’t tolerate teasing or bullying. She demands respect for everyone in her classroom. She shows each and every one of her students that she cares about them personally, individually.

Her kindness has had a huge impact on my son. He loves school. He feels safe there. He knows he has someone he can trust. And I believe her kindness has a similar impact on other students … the ones who might otherwise feel neglected, marginalized, ignored.

Kindness as a Business Philosophy

Acts of kindness are easily amplified. My son has been shown considerable kindness, and he wants to share it with others.

He wanted to give so many cans of food that I had to find a bag to hold them all. I pulled out an unopened Penzeys Spices bag full of wonderful spices for holiday baking. As I emptied the bag, I noticed two promotional postcards in the bottom.

One said: Love People. Cook them tasty food.

The other simply said : Kind.

I was floored. Everything I had been thinking over the past few days summed up on a promotional postcard from a spice store: love and kindness as a business philosophy.

Kindness & Professionalism

Kindness isn’t often discussed as a business asset or strategy, but it’s a crucial part of my own business philosophy. And, if tragedy teaches us anything, it is the fact that how we treat other human beings truly matters.

So today I’m sharing a few of the ways that I strive to demonstrate kindness through my business and my work. 

Smile.  I’ve always been a big advocate of smiling, and business mogul Richard Branson agrees. It’s a quick and easy way to show interest in another person. It makes me approachable and open. Plus, it’s hard to be angry, grumpy, or mean when a smile is plastered on my face. Smiles can make anyone’s day a little brighter.

Listen.  People need to be heard. I try to avoid doing all the talking, and let folks tell me about their day, their kids, their pets, their complaints, their worries, their dreams, their lunch plans. Letting others speak creates a connection and trust that has blossomed into many strong, long-term relationships.

Care.  By listening to people, I end up learning a lot about them. I try to follow up on that knowledge by demonstrating concern about the things that matter to them. It doesn’t require anything extravagant, but a quick e-mail, text, or Facebook message asking about a sick loved one or about an upcoming performance review goes a long way. I know I was deeply touched by the number of professional acquaintances that inquired about my father’s heart surgery last month.

Treat EVERYONE with Respect.  All of the above goes for every single person I encounter. It doesn’t matter what position a person holds, who a person knows, or whether they seem beneficial to my business. I try to smile, listen, and care about all the people who cross my path. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and care, whether they sit in the corner office or not. 

Deliver on Promises.  I do what I say I’m going to do. If I can’t, I take responsibility for my failure, communicate in a timely manner, and work to find an agreeable solution. I’m troubled by business people who have no problem making a quick buck off an inferior product or services they know won’t meet their clients needs. I don’t want people to feel duped, swindled, or fleeced. I strive to make sure my work genuinely benefits my clients, and  I want them to be excited by and satisfied with the services I provide.

Obviously, I haven’t perfectly implemented these approaches. There are times when I’m tired, cranky, or in a hurry, and I forget to smile, listen, or care. But it’s my goal to demonstrate kindness every day, to every one I encounter.

Kindness Comes Back Around

I recently received an incredible compliment. A long-time client who has become a dear personal friend wrote a testimonial for my business. She concluded the testimonial with these words: “I highly recommend that you get to know Lauren because in doing so, not only will you be bettering yourself, you will have gained a true friend for life.”

I’m far, far, far from perfect. But it brings me great joy to know that clients and friends see me as the sort of person who can be counted on for the long haul.

I hope I live up to their expectations.

I hope I’m modeling kindness for my 7-year-old son.

Kindness changes people. Kindness changes the world.

Be kind today.

 

Have you encountered examples of kindness in a business setting? How do you demonstrate kindness at work? Share your thoughts below.

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