Like many others, I spend some time each day looking through my social media feeds. My wife would tell you too much time, but I like to know what’s going on around me so I think it’s important. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that there is a lot of negativity on social media. I often hesitate to give an opinion on a friend or associate’s post that might be contrary because I usually end up getting blasted. It seems that unless you agree with whatever others are posting, you are a target. That’s a topic for a different post though…I’d like to focus on the merits of being kind when it comes to business.
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed recently and saw a post from a fellow business owner about the current political climate. I saw that there were over 100 comments and before I even started reading them, I knew what I was going to find. His comment displeased a number of people, who then expressed their intention to take their business elsewhere. It is an interesting time we live in. You are only allowed to have an opinion if it matches the opinion of those around you. It got pretty heated in the comments and unfortunately, my friend engaged when he probably should have just kept quiet or said only nice things. Instead, he attacked those that posted negative comments and created some real friction and added fuel to an already brightly burning fire. It is NEVER good business to attack your customers (or even potential customers). Killing them with kindness is the key and in my opinion, one of the keys for success in business.
In a recent article in Forbes, I read how it is becoming more and more acceptable for people at all levels in an organization to curse in order to show their “authenticity.” Swearing at work, more and more, brings acceptance while words like “love” and “kind” will elicit scorn. I’m not talking about LOVE as in romance, I’m talking about love of fellow man and being kind as a basic human trait. When I think of some of my greatest professional accomplishments, my mind is drawn to some of the great leaders and mentors that I’ve had that made me push beyond my own limits and caused me to believe in myself – which made all the difference.
I have tried very hard in my own development as a leader, to try to be the kind of person that encourages rather then criticize and to build up rather than tear down. In large part I think I’ve been successful but I have to credit a lot of that to the positive role models that I’ve had.
This same principle applies to ALL of our interactions with people, whether then be colleagues, customers, family or friends. Here are some of the ways you can foster kindness in your business:
Show Gratitude. It is important that those around you know you are grateful for them. Customers want to feel that you want their business, employees or colleagues want to feel like you care about them. It can be as easy as just saying “thanks” or “great job.” For customers, soliciting honest feedback and then expressing thanks for that feedback, even if it is negative, will go far in showing that you care. People just want to be heard. You don’t always have to fix their issue, but you DO have to hear it and have genuine concern.
Deal With It. All of us have been in situations where we took the time to express our displeasure at an issue or situation that was affecting us only to feel like it fell upon deaf ears. Don’t ignore. Deal with issues early, right away and as transparently as you possibly can. When you tackle issues quickly, you remove the passive-aggressive behavior that you want to avoid at all costs. We all know it can take YEARS to build a reputation but you can soil that reputation in the blink of an eye.
Don’t Be Selective. Often, we judge people by the things that bother us the most. That is very rarely the whole picture of who a person is. Imagine others judging you by the negative things you’ve done and completely ignoring the positive things. Commit to seeing the WHOLE person, not just the things you want to see (unless they are good!). Accept that people are flawed, including ourselves. When you really accept this, you allow yourself to be much more open to actually solving issues and makes it MUCH easier to be kind.
Say Good Things. Instead of only discussing the bad things about a person or group, say good things! Looking for and finding the good in others helps us to be in a good place ourselves and spreads good vibes all around. Its easy to find the bad…spend time looking for the positive and you will be amazed how it changes your entire outlook.
Set Boundaries. Being kind doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr or a push-over or a people-pleaser. It’s more about trying to set the stage in your office, your home, your friendship for people to succeed. If you don’t set boundaries, then you might create situations that become unsupportable and you will, inevitably, loose it and end up snapping or lashing out at others when things go beyond the limit you can handle. So, set that limit and let people know your boundaries so they know how to be kind to YOU and it becomes win-win for everyone.
Finally, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! It takes time to build a reputation and so if you want this to be a normal part of the way you are or the way your company does business, it will take time and effort. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? The important thing is that you make the effort and try to be consistent.