Leadership

Kindness: a better business strategy

Kindness: a better business strategy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kindness. It’s a scorned, if not outright rejected concept in business – it’s too soft, too weak. We can’t be kind, because to be in business is to be tough, competitive, strong. Logic and rationality rule the roost. We don’t do feelings or soft, fluffy stuff. We’re here to do the serious stuff of business; please leave your kindness at the door.

Kindness isn't weakness

But kindness isn’t a soft, fluffy feeling – it’s a philosophy that holds individual human dignity as the ultimate value. It sees that dignity as more important than power games, point-scoring, and numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s much, much harder than the usual “hard-headed” business approach. And it is actually a solid business strategy for getting the best out of your people, making sure you have the right people on your team, and serving your customers well.

And it isn’t weakness, not by any means. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do, in business and life, is to have courageous conversations that put everything on the line. Whether that’s with an under-performing employee, a high-potential team member, or someone who just isn’t fitting in, kindness can help individuals and organisations to flourish. Brené Brown has written excellently on the subject of “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” I highly recommend her book Dare to Lead; it’s on regular rotation in my reading list.

Kind honesty

Being kindly honest with someone is really, really hard. It can feel like we’re being downright cruel when we are in the middle of that conversation and see the pain and disappointment in the other person’s eyes. Of course, we need to give the feedback with empathy and compassion, but we can’t just avoid having the conversation because we don’t like how it will make us feel.

Allowing someone to fail by not giving clear feedback on expectations and performance is a deep unkindness. No one wants to realise that other people think we are incompetent, a burden, or dragging others down, but no one had the guts to tell us we weren’t meeting the mark. This is the Golden Rule at work: how we want to be treated is how we should treat others.

Kind challenges

Unkindness isn’t just about avoiding tough conversations with underperformers; it’s also unkind not to challenge your star employees. We might worry that if we let them spread their wings, they’ll fly away from us, or that other employees will act up out of jealousy (requiring their own courageous conversations).

But bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator is unkind to those who want to excel and it’s unkind to your customers and industry too. Who knows what great improvements a high-potential employee could create, if you allowed them to follow their instincts, supported them with a budget, permission to experiment, make mistakes and discover new approaches, and surrounded them with people who will challenge, coach, and inspire them?

Kind exits

Sometimes, kindness is allowing, even encouraging, someone to leave a role or organisation that doesn’t “fit” them. If you can’t provide them with conditions to flourish, why not allow them to look for a place that can? Why would you want to keep someone around who isn’t enjoying working in your team or organisation? Trying to stay below an arbitrary turnover target or avoid hard questions about why you let a good employee leave aren’t good reasons to try to hold someone back in a place where they’re miserable.

Who knows what could happen if you give someone your blessing to find a new home for their talents? It’s a very small world: you might encounter them again in the future, as an employee, boss, or customer. Wouldn’t it be great to know you left things on good terms? Or maybe they’ll go on to revolutionise the industry, or they’ll remember the good boss who helped them find a path that better suited them, and will do the same for others? That’s how kindness multiplies.

Kindness to self

And while we’re talking about kindness, let’s be kind to ourselves too. Most of us feel like we’re making things up as we go – and we regularly face new situations (remember Alert Level 4 lockdown, anyone?!). It’s OK not to know the answers. And it’s even more OK to admit that to your team, your colleagues and your boss – people usually appreciate honesty. (And if you’re working with people who aren’t OK with you not knowing the all the answers, every time, then you might want to find a kinder place to work!)

How will you apply kindness today?

It’s all well and good to read about how kindness can help us. But words on a screen don’t change the world – taking action does!

Commit to a single act of kindness today. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering – when a sculptor wants to break off a section of rock, they don’t aim one mighty blow, but deliver a series of gentle taps in just the right place. The same goes for kindness – many, small acts of deliberate kindness will nudge your team, your organisation and the world in the desired direction. All you have to do is start.

Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, Organisational Culture, Workplace, 0 comments
Leadership toolbox: how to use change stories to transform your reality

Leadership toolbox: how to use change stories to transform your reality

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Our change stories can make or break us as we navigate change. I’ve written before about how we humans are sense-making machines – essentially, we need to have a story that explains what we are experiencing. And if what is happening doesn’t come with a story that makes sense to us, we’ll make up one that does.

I think it’s fair to say that 2020 is the year of navigating change, whether or not we are willing participants in those changes! Which makes now a great time to think about the stories we are hearing, telling ourselves, and sharing with others.

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Posted by Daria Williamson in How-to, Leadership, 0 comments
Leadership Toolbox: how to create psychological safety at work

Leadership Toolbox: how to create psychological safety at work

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Have you ever wondered why some teams thrive in difficult times? They trust one another, freely share knowledge, admit mistakes and generate creative and innovative ideas at the drop of a hat.

Two brown goats butting heads
Image source: Pexels

Others spend their time covering up mistakes, concealing information from bosses and colleagues, and pretending they know everything. Then they wonder why they don’t get the results they want. They are characterised by cut-throat competition, where only the strongest can survive.

Psychological safety is a key factor in the way that teams work together and produce results. This post explains the concept of psychological safety, its benefits, and how to go about developing it with the teams you work in and lead.

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, 1 comment
Leadership toolbox: how to build self-awareness

Leadership toolbox: how to build self-awareness

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Self-awareness is a key life and leadership skill. At its most basic level, self-awareness is about developing your knowledge and understanding of yourself, and being able to access that knowledge and understanding in real-time to help you better navigate your life.

Its benefits include:

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Development, Leadership, 2 comments
Leadership Toolbox: getting to grips with empathy

Leadership Toolbox: getting to grips with empathy

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In my first Leadership Toolbox post, I talked about the importance of self-care for leaders. Self-care involves turning our attention inward, to manage our own wellbeing.

In this post, I’ll be talking about the tool of empathy, which helps us turn our attention outward, to understand and connect with those around us. In a future post, I’ll share tips for how to increase your levels of empathy, and how to apply empathy “in the wild”, to grow your relationships and increase your effectiveness as a communicator and leader.

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, 3 comments
Leadership Toolbox: what we need to know for living with complexity

Leadership Toolbox: what we need to know for living with complexity

Reading Time: 13 minutes

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. We are seeing a massive global response to the COVID-19 virus, the likes of which we don’t often see. Things are changing daily, if not hourly, as a result of both the spread of the coronavirus and national and local responses to the evolving situation.

In some ways, what is happening with coronavirus is a perfect example of the kind of complex world in which we now live, where the goalposts are constantly shifting, threats seem to be escalating on an hourly basis, and no one really knows what will happen next. This complexity can make it feel like we’re fighting battles every day, leaving us feeling exhausted and pushing us away from creativity and connection.

So, how do we make sense of the world around us, and navigate complexity while keeping ourselves mentally and physically healthy, and ready to do good work? In this article, I share some knowledge and resources that have helped me at different times – and I’m sure something here will help you too!

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, 0 comments
Leadership Toolbox: how to create a self-care plan

Leadership Toolbox: how to create a self-care plan

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As leaders, we need a comprehensive toolbox to succeed in our roles. I’ll be publishing a series of posts on leadership tools in coming months, so keep an eye out! I am starting this series with self-care because I believe it is the single most important tool for our toolbox.

It may feel like an entirely “selfish” practice because we are turning our energy towards ourselves, rather than directly serving those we lead. But there’s a reason that airline safety videos tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. A good self-care practice supports our wellbeing, allowing us to live a more awesome life, doing all the great things we dream of, and enjoying ourselves for many years to come.

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, 6 comments
Why we need to ditch certainty and embrace uncertainty

Why we need to ditch certainty and embrace uncertainty

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Certainty is highly prized; so much of what we do and say revolves around creating certainty for ourselves, or projecting an aura of certainty for others to see. We avoid and even despise uncertainty. Part of this is because our brains are wired to prefer certainty.

The problem is not uncertainty itself, but our unfamiliarity around how to navigate uncertainty, and our lack of tools to help us do so. It’s important to understand that the only way we can change and grow as individuals, teams and societies is through embracing and working with uncertainty.

I’m convinced that we need to embrace uncertainty wholeheartedly in our lives and organisations. Once we understand why we react the way we do to uncertainty, we can learn how to use it to drive growth, improvement and development, and even have fun doing so!

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Development, Leadership, Success, Workplace, 0 comments
Burnout or balance: which will you choose?

Burnout or balance: which will you choose?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I love my work. I love the flexibility to choose my hours and the interesting and fun projects and activities I get to do for my clients. But I was recently reminded that passion doesn’t excuse us from needing to look after ourselves. We still must actively choose to balance effort and ease, labour and leisure, at both individual and organisational levels.

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, 0 comments
Success – what matters more, talent or hard work?

Success – what matters more, talent or hard work?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

We live in a culture that worships talent as the path to success. Have you heard people describe someone at the top of their game as a “freak”, a “genius”, or a “natural”? Or heard their performance described as “effortless” or “magical”? We come unstuck when we believe that natural talent is the key to success; so why are we biased towards this idea, and what can we do about it?

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Posted by Daria Williamson in Leadership, Success, 1 comment