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#sowhoknew: Why ‘kindness’ is the new cool in business

My Grandma always used to say to me “it’s nice to be nice” but starting a career in advertising in the 80’s when kindness was associated with weakness, the notion that benevolence prevails was somewhat dispelled for me.

However, it seems that 2018 has heralded a ‘kindness revolution’ epitomised by people such as the waistcoated England manager Gareth Southgate who led his young team to the Semi Finals of the World Cup. James Brown, the author of football memoir ‘Above Head Height’ describes how soccers Mr Nice Guy has developed an emotionally intelligent leadership style which is respected rather than derided.

In his book ‘Why Kindness is Good For You’ Dr David Hamilton argues that innately we all appreciate that having a level of magnanimity and altruism helps to solve many issues, “We subconsciously know that we need to balance unkindness with kindness. I think we intuitively understand that kindness is a solution to many problems.”
Exploring similar themes is a book by author Shahroo Izadi, entitled ‘The Kindness Method’ which advocates that by treating yourself and others with kindness is the only way to make changes in your life that ultimately last, “Practising kindness is an indisputably positive thing. With so many people affected by stress, anxiety and addiction there’s more acknowledgement we’re all fighting, often invisible, battles and compassion can make it that little bit more bearable.”
Brands are also jumping on the kindness bandwagon with the likes of Skinny Dip London who have launched an Instagram / Twitter campaign #hatesucks which is focused on supporting the LGBT rainbow initiative:

“Hate sucks, right? We’re all about the love at Skinnydip HQ. #HATESUCKS is a very important message we want to share with as many people as possible worldwide. From our stores to our social, rainbows reign across our branding and products in support of the LGBT community”

So how can you implement kindness into your daily work practices? In an article in Entrepreneur, business etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore lists 6 simple ways that we can all inject a little kindness into our working day:

  • Be nice to with everyone you interact with – treat everyone the same no matter who they are or what they do
  • Show respect to the gatekeepers – if you want to create a good impression with the CEO be respectful to their EA
  • Be polite but not over familiar – avoid using terms like mate, hon, sweetie or chick as they can come across negatively
  • Help someone in need – a simple act like holding a door or offering to help carry some documents can go a long way in establishing a relationship
  • Help others succeed – help workmates who are struggling, mentor younger members of staff or share knowledge with others with no expectation of personal gain
  • Be nice even if they are not – kill them with kindness and keep your side of the street clean

To conclude Amy Wilkinson who is a strategic adviser, entrepreneur and lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of “The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs” who summarises why kindness is now king in the modern workplace:
“In the recent past, the ‘nice guy’ who did ‘the right thing’ by supporting colleagues won moral kudos and not much more. In the new technologically enhanced world of work, ‘nice guys’ really can finish first. They gain bottom line respect, results and revenue”
Personally I have always tried to treat the people that I work alongside with the utmost respect – to be honest it hasn’t always worked because some people have tried to take advantage of the compassion and consideration shown but I am proud to say that I have never deviated from my intent because I have always wanted to be treated in the same way that I treat others. And my response to those who have transgressed? Don’t ever confuse kindness with weakness.

So what do you think? Is kindness really the new cool in business or do you think that people in the workplace respond better to the proverbial stick rather than the carrot? As ever I am keen to hear your thoughts…

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.