Truth is essential in business. But is it always conducive to kindness?
Kindness can be an incredible force for good. However when it is born from a need to avoid feeling uncomfortable it is no longer true kindness, but rather fear — spelling complex trouble for business. Many will tell you, and I will echo it loudly- there is nothing more important in this world than love and kindness.
So how do we best navigate these areas? How can we infuse our business practices with kindness and truth? Because let’s face it, sometimes being in business also means making tough calls. Choosing a new employee, a new supplier, changing brands or developing new clients- regardless of the industry you are in you are going to find yourself in “that position.”
So when you are the boss how do you make sure you are setting everyone up for success?
Well, it starts with you. If your intentions are clear, if they are balanced and well thought out and ring true, then people will know where they stand. Any behavioral specialist will tell you that trouble starts when people feel unsafe or unsure. Some business owners find it difficult to hold this space positively. If people don’t know- they cannot adjust. We are not mind-readers. (Well most of us! -grin inserted)
If you are too invested in being nice, without the balance of respect and clarity- the news is in- your business will suffer. Moreover, if your business suffers? Everyone suffers! Fairness is a rule of thumb, speaking with respect and understanding the language you are using. When we use a calm, clear voice, without patronizing but also recognizing the impact of what and how we speak to others- outcomes can be very positive, there may be a sense of release for both people!
You may have a factory floor manager, turning up late and distracted, making big mistakes. An early conversation, a caring one to find out what is going on may uncover a family illness or an underlying issue impacting the employee. You can make a space for the conversation and explain that you empathise, but you cannot have their usual excellent work standard drop as it will impact their self-esteem negatively and the business. Perhaps the time off in lieu is needed, or some counseling. Do they have holidays owing? By being honest, you are kind.
You can then choose how to assist or rectify the balance in the workspace.
The result may well be a relieved employee, and an appreciative one. Escalation can happen quickly when your heart and soul are invested in your business.
Some people wait until it’s broken before they fix it, ignoring the little signals until it gets to the point where the emotional dam breaks and all hell breaks loose — negativity streams from situations like this. For example, a business associate of a friend noticed a quality drop in the product they were importing from Europe. They felt awful if they said anything and just hoped the problem would rectify itself. Then the next shipment came in and was all wrong! The result? A 150,000 dollar loss. A very confused manufacturer had no idea what was wrong, and an entire business relationship very swiftly went down the proverbial.
Listening and communicating is the key to truth and kindness, a deep breath and some bravery help too.
As the incredibly inspiring Richard Branson says “Listening enables us to learn from each other, from the marketplace, and from the mistake that must be made in order to get anywhere that is original and disruptive. I learn so much from guests and employees that way.”
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