When you think of ‘kindness’, its role in business isn’t what immediately springs to mind. In fact, it’s a behaviour which has arguably been drummed out of business.
Seen as a potential chink in the armour of a stern leader or cut-throat business professional. But that’s all changing. In an ever-evolving world, the ability to be kind and have empathy and compassion quickly becomes a sought-after trait. So we’ve brought in the king of kindness, Magnus Wood, co-founder of The Kindness Corporation, to help us understand the benefits of kindness better, its business case and how we can all implement more kind behaviours into our everyday.
As Mark Twain once said, "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
Kindness has many different interpretations, but Magnus and his colleague Cole Baker-Bagwell have created a succinct definition that helps us better understand how we can be kind, “Kindness is a commitment in thought, word and action to leave everyone and everything better.”
What does that mean in the real world? Let’s take a meeting, for example. We’ve all sat through meetings where we came away feeling drained. It might have been unnecessary, lacked direction, or you could not speak openly. A kinder approach may have been having a set agenda, allowing everyone to speak, creating a collaborative atmosphere or even cancelling the meeting if it didn’t have a clear purpose.
Why kindness is beneficial
Now we better understand what kindness is, let’s look at the business case for kindness. “When businesses focus on it (kindness), we see every single dimension go up. Trust, innovation, creativity and wellbeing; pretty much everything positive goes up when organisations focus on kindness. It is that powerful,” Magnus says on the benefits he’s seen working with clients.
"Trust, innovation, creativity and wellbeing; pretty much everything positive goes up when organisations focus on kindness. It is that powerful."
But it’s not just on a business level that you can see the benefit; it is derived from the individuals that make up a team or company.
Kindness has a profound effect on the brain. Whenever we experience, see or hear about kindness, happy hormones and neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) are released into the body. These not only make us feel good, more connected and less anxious when we give or receive acts of kindness but also rewire our brains to encourage us to repeat them. Recognising the kindness you've received can be a powerful motivator to extend the same courtesy to others.
The result? When every individual in a team or company starts this positive feedback loop, you start to see teams working better together, a less stressed workforce and higher engagement in the work they’re doing too. So, let’s see how we can be kind as individuals and leaders.
Kind Actions as an individual
- Be kind to yourself: “If you want to be an example of kindness to other people, you have to be an example of kindness to yourself”, Magnus says. If you’re using yourself as a whipping post or not giving yourself a moment to rest, how can you have the energy to express kindness to others? It all starts with you. Giving yourself breaks, noticing your successes and looking after your health are all essential acts that free up space to share kindness with others.
- Have boundaries of steel: “Kind people have boundaries of steel. Yes, you can be kind, but that doesn’t mean to say you can let others take advantage of you. There is tremendous strength in making your boundaries clear because that’s being kind to yourself and the others around you”, Magnus notes. Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do is say no. Whether it’s a new project, outing or even a promotion that we know we can’t commit to but feel obliged to take, the best thing you can do is go with your gut. Initially, it may be uncomfortable, but what is more uncomfortable is backing out at the last minute or not giving something your all as you know it’s not right for you.
- Simple acts of kindness: kindness doesn’t have to be a big gesture. It could be as simple as smiling at someone, turning on their computer if they’re running late, getting someone a coffee, or simply asking how they are today. Start with one act of kindness a day for a week, and see how you get on!
- Reflect on the kindness of others: it’s easier to start being kind once you notice how others are being kind to you. Note down when other people were kind to you - how did it make you feel? Take that feeling and use it as motivation to pass it on.
Kind Actions As A Leader
- Make time to check in on your team: If you're super busy and running a big team, it's often easier to take their behaviour or words at face value. But small check-ins are connecting points that can make all the difference. Say someone in a meeting has their camera turned off (and they’re usually on-air!); check in to see if they're doing OK today or if there's anything you can do to support them. These check-ins are not merely procedural but are opportunities to connect on a human level. They show that you care not just about the work but also about your team's emotional well-being.
- Kindness in good times and bad: We've all had our fair share of tough moments in business, especially over the last few years. But being able to express kindness and show an example of kindness in the tough times is extremely motivating to your team. Kindness isn't just for the good times; it's a beacon of hope during challenges. It can significantly boost team morale when the going gets tough.
- Calling out unkindness: Whether it's some of your team members always being late to meetings, individuals talking over people, or publicly calling out other members' mistakes, the kindest thing you can do is recognise it and respond. Magnus makes the point that unkindness becomes part of a workplace's or teams' culture when it's not called out. Ignoring unkind behaviour can lead to a toxic work environment. Addressing it head-on ensures that everyone feels respected and heard, reinforcing a culture of kindness.
We hope the wisdom of Magnus has helped you see the power kindness can have for every one of us. Ready to go out into the world armed with kindness? Us too!
If you want to check out Magnus' full PepTalk, why not subscribe to our on-demand service? It features some of the greatest minds on everything from baking to brain science and mental health to mountaineering. Or, if you want to inject kindness into your business with a bespoke PepTalk Live with Magnus, contact our team to book.