weve gotten kindness wrong

Kindness in business is as logical as peanut butter and jelly. Butterfly collars and disco. Movies and popcorn. Labs and tennis balls. Perfectly paired as they are, kindness hasn’t made it onto the corporate main stage- yet. It hasn’t been widely valued or well adopted. or embedded into the DNA of work, even though we have clear and objective data that proves how kindness positively affects us and the way we relate to one another and work together.

The reason for these oversights is simple. We’ve gotten kindness wrong.

Kindness has been hiding in plain sight. This humble human competency packs a powerful punch of objective benefits that have been well researched, and proven. I’ll focus on three that underscore why kindness is a no brainer when it comes to our individual and collective wellbeing, how we work together and organisational performance.

Kindness is a vital human nutrient. Business is a human thing. You and I work with other people. Kindness strengthens the bond we share. It deepens our relationships which helps us establish trust between one another that ignites collaboration and innovation. This knowledge leads me to a logical series of ‘whys.’ Why aren’t senior leaders prioritising kindness? Why isn’t every CEO clamouring to develop kindness as a core human competency? Why aren’t we, as employees, insisting on kindness as a foundation for our workplace cultures?

Kindness improves our overall wellbeing, cognition, and even our physical appearance. (Hey there gorgeous!) Our wellbeing is in the shitter. In case you haven’t heard, we have a booming mental health epidemic. Our bodies are flooded with cortisol and adrenaline from epic levels of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Toxic workplace cultures, overwork, a lack of balance between life and work, loneliness, and isolation are wreaking havoc on millions of people. For many, this has become their set point. By contrast, kindness stimulates a steady stream of good vibes chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin-the ones that are good for us. These chemicals help us feel better, function better, and think more clearly. They help us be more mentally and physically healthy. If kindness makes us healthier, why wouldn’t embedding kindness into the organisational fabric be at the top of every CEO’s priority list?

Kindness is contagious. We gravitate toward people who are kind- who care about us, have our backs, encourage us to grow, take chances and be our best selves. When we experience kindness, science has proven that in turn, we want to be kind to others. Kindness begets more kindness.

If kindness brings out our individual and collective best, wouldn’t it also help us experience a sense of belonging that would lead to a more connected experience at work? Wouldn’t that connection make it easier for us to navigate conflict? To work together and create solutions Wouldn’t this type of bond strengthen teams, customer relationships and organisations?

The ‘why’ for kindness becomes abundantly obvious when we look at it through this lens. The issue is not whether kindness is valuable. The issue is that we’ve gotten kindness wrong.

Kindness has been misunderstood and minimised. Kindness is popularly thought of as small, one-off ‘random acts.’ If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of these little moments of joy, you most likely felt like it was “random”. But here’s the deal. Behind the scenes, there was a person who made a deliberate and conscious choice.

We can get kindness right by shifting our thinking. Kindness is an essential human competency that can be learned, developed and lived. By shifting our thinking, we can experience the significance of kindness. We can work together to bring reform to broken systems, build healthy communities, and discover answers to solve some of our most persistent human challenges.

Kindness is not part of business vocabulary. The business world understands the value of fine tuning our human skills. Billions are spent on training and workshops to sharpen things like communication, active listening, public speaking, and leadership capabilities- to boost emotional intelligence, improve team dynamics and our ability to resolve conflict. On the other hand, kindness has been incorrectly defined as niceness or ease. It’s been equated to weakness. A quality that has no place in hard-nosed business vocabulary.

We can get kindness right by redefining it. Kind and nice are not the same- not even close. Nice is superficial, polite, fleeting and easy. Kindness by contrast is courageous, deep and at times, damn tough to muster. It’s a decision that stems from an intention to do no harm. It’s internal awareness that guides our thoughts and our choices. It’s a compass and a litmus test that takes the shape of self-control, curiosity, candor, transparency, clear expectations, clear, purposeful communication, accountability, mutual respect, inclusion, speaking up for what’s right, truth telling, and wanting something better for one another. Then, acting from that mindset, even when we’re smack dab in the middle of heated conflict.

ROI has become a straitjacket. We inherently know that love, peace and compassion are forces for good. We don’t need calculations to tell us that. But in business, the value of something is too often determined by this question. “What’s the ROI?” In a fiercely competitive global economy, hyper focused on the bottom line, many leaders have forgotten one very important detail. The way people feel, show up, work and work together are the human factors that determine the bottom line- all day long. Because leaders have historically measured success by the health of their bottom line, they’ve de-coupled the relationship between people and outcomes and dehumanised business.

We can get kindness right by bringing common sense and humanity into business. When people are prioritised, ROI takes care of itself. When leaders make decisions to ensure people are healthy, well supported, and valued at work, those decisions create a chain reaction of mutual care, loyalty, and engagement that inspires us, fuels our actions and boosts the bottom line.

There’s absolutely no downside to kindness.

It’s essential for business because it’s essential for people. If you want to create a human centric organization but you’re unsure how to bring kindness into your business, connect with us. We can help.