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As the Fred Rogers quote goes, “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” This may seem simplistic or even childish, but kindness is actually a character that is often associated with great leadership.
What is it about kindness that helps make us better leaders? According to research done by Amy Cuddy, of Harvard Business School, leaders who project warmth are more effective than leaders who are tough. This is because kindness and warmth appear to accelerate trust.
The link between kindness and great leadership extends beyond just the relationship a leader has with their employees. It’s also been shown to increase employee performance. Why? Research at Oxford University analyzed hundreds of published papers that studied the relationship between kindness and happiness. This research uncovered 21 studies that explicitly prove that being kind to others makes us happier. When you add this information to the research from the University of Warwick that revealed that happy people are 12 percent more productive at work than unhappy people, you can see how kindness would increase productivity.
It’s easy for us to remember that we need to teach our children how to be kind, but it is also important to remember that we, as adults, need to be intentional about practicing kindness as well. While random acts of kindness are great, we shouldn’t overlook opportunities to be kind on purpose.
Here are four things you can do to help you practice purposeful kindness at work.
1. Kind recognition. While mistakes need to be addressed, successes need to be addressed too. Celebrate the success of others that you work with. Global research from the O.C. Tanner Institute, shows that when employees were asked what their boss or company could do to inspire them to strive for better results, recognition was the number one answer. That means it ranked higher than pay increases, promotions, training and autonomy.
2. Kind support. Everyone has something going on in their life that is causing them some stress. Whether you’re a leader or an individual contributor, there’s a lot of, “It’s not in my job description,” happening within organizations. There is not enough, “How can I help?” Try shifting your perspective at work and see how it trickles down to your employees.
3. Kind feedback. A 10-year study by Harvard Business Review shows that the biggest reason second-rate executives don’t move up is there inability to create trusting relationships. As leaders, we sometimes have to tell employees when they’re not meeting expectations. Critical conversations are tough, but can actually build trust, if they’re handled with kindness. This means that you are approaching this feedback with a genuine desire to help an employee become their best, rather than just improving your numbers.
4. Kind caring. The best leaders understand that their people are actually people and not just machines. They don’t turn off when they finish their work. They go home to deal with personal responsibilities, health concerns, relationships, financial issues, etc. Great leaders understand this, and they care.
While random acts of kindness are important, it’s the leaders that practice purposeful kindness that are truly great.