In the volatile world we live in today, and with the holiday season upon us, it’s a good time to contemplate some important life lessons and guiding principles that make work more meaningful. And I believe that the result of more meaningful work is often a better bottom line. I’ve seen firsthand the positive things that happen when an organization receives an infusion of kindness, and experts on the subject such as Stanford University lecturer and author Leah Weissrecommend companies take measures like naming a “VP of Kindness.”
Here are five important acts of kindness and generosity that can change the course of your business for the better.
1. Take every meeting.
This may sound ambitious, but it makes good business sense for designated people within a company to return all phone calls, answer all emails and arrange even a quick 15-minute meeting if the requester makes a sound case. Recently, my colleagues and I were asked by a mutual business contact to meet with someone starting a similar company. Although he likely wouldn’t immediately turn into a business partner, he had an impressive command of the industry and some bright ideas, and we’ll likely collaborate in the future. I also once took a cold call from a bright university student offering a gratis research study in return for access. The result was useful, newsworthy data and a positive grade for the student.
2. Say yes to staff requests.
No company leader can say yes to every staff request (e.g. pets aren’t allowed in every building, and adding a tanning bed to the breakroom is pretty impractical), but there are many requests a company can fulfill that will go a long way to making employees happier and healthier. Sari Mintz, CEO of custom party-supply company For Your Party, listened to her staff when she created an open-office arrangement that encourages easy communication between different departments, and it has paid off. “For us, office design is crucial to our creative process,” she recounts. “No matter their title, individuals feel comfortable sharing an idea, and this hold tremendous value, as every member of our team holds pieces of the customer-satisfaction puzzle.”
3. Give stuff away.
Many business leaders keep good advice and best practices close to the vest for fear of giving away a competitive advantage, but sharing in any industry only pays dividends, be it reciprocity, increased event invites, valued introductions to potential partners, etc. As Amber Meredith, Executive Vice President of BMF Brand Strategists, puts it, “It seems counterintuitive, but we believe in giving business away. Being a matchmaker to connect a prospect to a better fit for their needs is an act of kindness that can bolster your reputation and your business. I’ve made connections and delighted prospects with my ‘your needs first’ mindset and benefitted by bigger and better opportunities to partner.”
4. Make mentoring matter.
Studies demonstrate the positive outcomes of employee mentoring, including increasing compensation and promotions and experiencing more satisfaction with a career. In my experience, the value accrues to the mentor as well as the mentee, which benefits the entire organization. Our CEO realized this years ago when he created a leadership program that encourages intergenerational mentoring and constructive conversation to help up-and-coming leaders flourish.
5. Leverage “teachable moments.”
I’ve often had to spin unfortunate circumstances into a net positive for everyone involved. Rather than call out blame, I conduct a confidential conversation with the staffer at the center of the situation to mitigate and help course correct. I also file the incident away as a reference point (keeping the individual’s identity anonymous) for future conversations with our entire team, as a way of passing along important knowledge. Book publicist Ann-Marie Nieves once told me about a situation where a novice social-media influencer committed the major faux pas of tagging an author in a negative book review. Nieves responded by creating a whole list of positive (read: kind) ways to support authors, like following them on literary websites or showing up at their book launches.
If you want to infuse your business with kindness, creating your own “kindness lists” is a great place to start. And happy holidays.