THIS IS A HARD APPROACH INSIDE MOST COMPANIES, BUT THERE ARE OBVIOUSLY BENEFITS
Today's blog in the #BeTheRippleBlogs series is a thought-provoking piece from Ted Bauer.
Ted helps individuals and brands with content marketing, i.e. blogs, emails, white papers, sales documents etc and has been in the field for about 15 years, working in numerous industries, with a recent focus on real estate, HR technology, and outsourcing.
You can find Ted on LinkedIn: Here and on Twitter: @tedbauer2003
Over to Ted:
How about kindness as a business strategy? ROFL, or … maybe?
I watch CBS Sunday Morning every weekend, because I’m woke AF. Last weekend, they had this piece on kindness:
When I watched it, I started thinking about the role of kindness in biz. I guffawed to myself a few times. I’ve written about this stuff before — and usually not in a good way. There’s been research about the decline of civility in workplaces, decline of trust in workplaces, etc. At the same time, though, there’s some evidence that “compassionate work cultures” lead to more profits. Admittedly that’s a very hard concept to define; more on that in a second. There’s also a little bank of research on whether more empathetic companies make more money. Again, hard to define.
In a 2018 Harvard Business Review article by the founder of Fast Company, on “making kindness a core tenet of your company,”they point to some additional research, like Jamil Zaki’s “kindness contagion” work, which suggests that kindness can go viral (!) in people. Then the author of that piece talks about Mercedes Benz USA, including this snippet:
Over the last few years, this leap of faith unleashed all sorts of everyday acts of kindness. There was one dealer who’d closed a sale and noticed from the documents that it was the customer’s birthday. So he ordered a cake, and when the customer came in to pick up the car, had a celebration. Then there was the customer who got a flat tire on the way to her son’s graduation. She pulled into a Mercedes dealership in a panic and explained the problem. Unfortunately, there were no replacement tires in stock for her model. The service manager ran to the showroom, jacked up a new car, removed one of its tires, and sent the mother on her way. “We have so many stories like this,” Cannon says. “They’re about people going out of their way because they care enough to do something special.”
This guy Cannon, who ran the USA show for Benz, wanted to make “kindness” a facet of the business, and above are some of the examples that pop. Nice stuff, good examples. Could this get to scale? I’d argue potentially not.
The drawbacks to “kindness as a strategy”
The benefits to kindness as a strategy
What wins out?
Usually the first list — individual chasing of perks/goals/more, and competitive mindset. Most guys who run companies of 40+ people view themselves as abject warriors who go to literal war every day with rivals. They want to squash them. Bezos is like 30 years into the game and he still gets up every day wanting to do that, and as a result he’s got about $152 billion on paper. There’s a lot of guys in the world who want that life, and so they view everything as squashing of rivals and chasing of targets.
I worked for a place once with about 93% market share in its industry. The execs were all doing fine — good salaries, great trips, good perks. Most meetings were about squashing the “rivals,” such as they were, in the space. Killing them. Crushing them. Even when you’re getting comp’ed in Abu Dhabi, you want to eat, pray, kill. No “love.” No compassion. No kindness.
Now, that’s external — aimed at rivals. But that mentality trickles internally too — that’s what “culture” is, essentially — and it becomes about chasing of perks for the individuals, which makes it hard to scale kindness. Plus, in places where the external focus is very rimmed at destroying rivals, the priorities internally are typically very out of whack. That means people are working on urgent projects with no real focus all week, and so things can get testy when Manager A rolls up with new “urgent deliverables” for Employee B, even though B was already working on other stuff. It’s hard to scale kindness when there’s lots of snapping, crapping (upon), and “left hand vs. right hand.”
The final issue is that a lot of managers want to present as a hard ass, and are scared of being friends with employees, lest they can’t critique their performance or discipline them. I get it. In a place where your boss can’t show kindness because he/she wants “an edge” of sorts in your power dynamic, well, how can kindness scale that much?
What are your thoughts?
Thank you so much to Ted for sharing this fab piece. He asks what are your thoughts and we would love to hear about your experiences and opinions - let us know what you think.
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Thank you once again to Ted for sharing this piece, a really interesting look at kindness in workplaces and potential reasons that it may/may not come naturally within organisations.
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