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This is the fourth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

Kindness is a characteristic that isn’t often applied to businesses. It’s thought of as a strictly human trait, but businesses are made up of individuals – individuals who, as part of a business, can be collectively kind. How can a business build a “kindness mindset” that spreads kind behavior both within its own walls and outside in the larger community?

Like other attributes, kindness is expressed in action – taking action to improve a sub-optimal situation, like the classic Boy Scout good deed of helping an elderly lady across the street. In a business setting, the kindness mindset can be applied in four broad categories.

  1. Leadership: Recognize and reward kind acts by staffers. Demonstrate kindness in speech and attitude by avoiding belittling, negative behaviors. Support employees’ career goals with additional training and education.
  2. Operations: Look for ways to improve staffers’ work-life balance, especially in WFH; do they have adequate e-resources like imaged documents and electronics?  Safety is a form of kindness too: Utilize ergonomic vertical lifts, track-mounted file storage, and other safety equipment to reduce work-related accidents.
  3. Clients: Being kind is part of relationship-building. If a client has a temporary setback, set aside short-term profits and brainstorm with your own suppliers for solutions that fit your client’s finances.
  4. Community. Establish opportunities such as career tours and internships for disadvantaged populations. Volunteer time as well as money; showing up and taking part is a visible commitment to your community.

Kindness is not weakness. It is a form of strength. At its essence, kindness is an acknowledgement that everyone in a community has value and deserves the resources needed to reach their optimal worth.

Even more important, kindness is contagious. It’s a truism that you get back whatever you put out, whether it’s positive or negative. When your business acts in kind ways, that behavior will come back to the business in unexpected and beneficial ways. Make kindness a prominent part of your brand.

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