Kindness in business
But is running a business compatible with kindness? It’s a question this episode of the BBC podcast The Anatomy of Kindness looks at. The entire series is a great listen and has some fascinating insights based on the world’s largest in-depth study of kindness created with a team at the University of Sussex.
96% of respondents to the study said that being kind at work was important to them and those who had a kind boss were more likely to stay at their company for at least another year.
Results that are backed up by evidence from Joe Folkman, a psychometrician based in the United States. He studied the feedback ratings of 51,000 leaders and those rated by their staff as more likeable also tended to be rated highly on effectiveness. Whereas leaders with a low level of likeability were also seen as low on effectiveness. There was a clear correlation between likeability and outcomes like customer satisfaction, turnover, growth, and employee engagement.
So maybe the question should really be can we afford not to be a kind leader?
A culture of kindness
The hospitality industry is perhaps not one you’d assume to be kind, but Tom Elliot co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims is flying the flag for kindness and a more thoughtful approach. As he puts it in the Anatomy of Kindness:
"I can't stand the word ‘boss’, that awful, implied authority that's not earned. I say it and you do it."
But for him to be a kind leader it takes a kind culture:
"The danger is to look at kindness as a one-to-one thing, but really it's a one to team, and team to team thing. It's more of a web like experience.”
The truth is to lead with kindness you need to create a safe, supportive, and empathetic environment. It’s something that Google found when they were looking into how to build the ‘perfect team’. Their Project Aristotle research showed the importance of human bonds developed through listening to one another and that sensitivity to feelings and needs was key to a high-functioning team.