• Forbes: Why Kindness is Your Competitive Advantage

  • Wise You,

    Thank you Forbes for first publishing my article on kindness in the workplace.

    ​Had I heard in my 20s that kindness is a competitive advantage, I would have rolled my eyes. Didn’t expressing kindness in the workplace make one appear weak or give others permission to take advantage of you?

    Maybe you’ve thought similarly.

    As I advanced in my career from consultant to director, vice president and now executive coach, I discovered that authentic kindness was my ticket to collaborative relationships, successful initiatives and increased revenue. Not only did it feel good to lead from a place of love and kindness, I learned kindness is powerful and transformative in the workplace.

    I’m not alone. Researchers from around the globe have studied kindness in its many forms and have noted that individuals, teams and organizations demonstrating kindness experience an advantage over those who do not.

    Kindness Increases Sales

    Have you ordered coffee, paid for it and then realized you forgot to mention you wanted an added syrup or non-dairy milk? You tell the cashier your mistake and instead of charging you for your forgetfulness, he gifts you the added syrup or milk. This small act of kindness (less than $1) likely stuck with you as you returned to this coffee shop to buy more.

    Going the extra mile with your customers, honoring a return or delighting them when they least expect it, builds trust and pleasure.

    Zappos, Nordstrom and Starbucks have all benefited financially from their loyal customers. Starbucks launched a kindness campaign last summer and Nordstrom and Zappos continue to wow customers with their generous return policies.​

    Kindness Motivates Employees

    The Zenger Folkman study tracked 51,836 leaders and noted that the most likeable leaders who expressed warmth were also the most effective. “If you’re seen as low-warmth, you have something like a 1-in-2000 chance to make the top quartile of effectiveness as a leader,” said Loran Nordgren, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School.

    What are actions that can increase a leader’s likability score? Their research notes seven actions that make a difference:

    • Deepening positive emotional connections with others
    • Displaying integrity consistently
    • Acting as a coach, mentor and teacher
    • Being less competitive with others and more cooperative
    • Inspiring others
    • Making an effort to change when asking for feedback
    • Sharing your vision for the future.

    Kindness Improves Creativity

    Creativity is the cornerstone to innovation. So how can a leader increase creativity? According to Jane Dutton and her colleagues’ research at the University of Michigan, respectful engagement with individuals and teams enhances creativity. 

    Dutton’s team defines respective engagement as “conveying presence, communicating affirmation, effective listening and supportive communication.” All of these respectful actions facilitate a more positive social network, a higher sense of worth and better relational information processing. When these actions are combined, respective engagement increases creativity.​

    Kindness Reduces Attrition

    According to a U.K. study, eight in ten British citizens would not accept a role, even if it paid more, if it meant working with people they did not get along with. “In fact, pay was only the sixth biggest factor for people staying in their current job – with Brits prioritising good relationships with those around them, enjoying the role and the commuting time over thinking about the money,” noted the study.

    If your boss, teammate or company acknowledged when you were sick, lost a loved one or celebrated a life-event (e.g., birth of a baby, wedding, birthday, etc.), then you know the impact kindness can have on your desire to stay.​

    Kindness Boosts Well-Being

    Performing acts of kindness not only feels good, it increases your overall well-being. Oxford University conducted three research studies on the subject with great success. One experiment involved participants from 39 countries as they demonstrated acts of kindness for seven days to family, friends, strangers and to themselves. Data showed a positive impact on the giver’s happiness, life satisfaction, compassion, trust, positivity and social connection.

    If you want to boost your happiness and desire to be more kind right this very moment, the research team led by Keiko Otake, proves that acknowledging your acts of kindness will do just that. So take a moment and list two or more acts of kindness you demonstrated this past week. Do you feel your happiness rising?

    Moving Kindness Forward

    Whether you lead an organization, work in the back office or greet customers daily, you have the option to infuse each task and communication with kindness. Science proves that your acts of kindness create a positive ripple effect that influences sales, teams, innovation, attrition and well-being. Now that is powerful.

    How will you demonstrate kindness today? If you need an idea or two, considering demonstrating kindness:

    • When giving difficult feedback.
    • When something doesn’t “go right” or you miss the mark.
    • When your teammate bugs the heck out of you.
    • When your boss, peer or customer “just doesn’t get it.”
    • When you greet yourself in the mirror each morning.

    Kind regards,

    Jennifer

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