Consider Kindness: What You Can Learn From Your Friendly Neighbourhood Girlboss
There are three people in your brain when you run a small, independent business. The first is the boss; the pioneer who began the construction of this amazing world filled with wares that all have a bit of blood, sweat and tears in them. The second is the employee; although they inhabit the same mental space as the boss, it isn’t uncommon to find a small business owner working hunched over their desk until the small hours, day in and day in, attempting to navigate the world of social media, the world of digital marketing and sales. Let alone financing a website launch, tax, and keeping food on the table. The last is the self; they yearn for the validation of economic success but also want to snooze that god-awful 6am alarm until eight, nine, or ten. They are the ones who demand self-care and rest, and may be ignored due to the aforementioned need for food on the table, and shelter. Being a small business owner, whose business is their sole channel of income, can be desperately frustrating.
But how do you manage this cacophony of voices within your mind, trying to sway your priorities either which way. It’s easy and privileged of me to propose that by only doing the same amount of work you would do in your last job, with this one, that you’ll be okay, because often you’ll find some small creators work better in sporadic flurries of motivation, which is ideal when you work with chemicals etc. like resin or acetone, where consistent heavy prolonged exposure may not be best for an individual.
How do you motivate yourself to work when you have no energy, do you bribe yourself with Netflix, or do you procrastinate? Do you use threats of impending deadlines, panic or demise, do you do your work in sporadic little bursts, to give yourself much needed breaks throughout the day? How do you, as a theoretical small business owner, do the massive workload of a CEO, a manager, the employees, the accountant, the social media manager, the marketing executive, and still have enough time for yourself? It’s hard, isn’t it? Even imagining it is hard.
Many people do this daily, running their “side-hustles” that became bigger than anticipated, they lose sleep to try and keep up with the trials and tribulations of the work, and, it isn’t uncommon to just really want to take a few days off to sleep. Surely, you would want to, too.
But that’s the thing, with many leaders, isn’t it. There’s that veiled sense of commitment to the cause only manifesting in one way, shape or form, and fatigue, or feeling off for a day, may impair other people’s vision of you. When it’s only you working in your small business, you know you’re working yourself to collapse. But, when you are in a bigger organisation, no matter how many jobs you juggle that may be outside of your job description, you often don’t get recognised for putting extra effort in.
That is what happened with one of the people in the first ever episode of Undercover Boss. Jacqueline, who worked at Waste Management, worked in an administrative role, and actively acknowledged that she was only receiving an hourly rate of pay, despite not only doing the job she signed a contract to do, but also lending a hand to cover bases in numerous other departments. A star employee being overworked, and until CEO Larry O’Donnell walked onto the premises, her efforts were being neglected, even by her supervisors, who worked directly above her. You wouldn’t want that to be you, would you.
If you are in the position to lead with that sense of empathy and perspective, it is imperative that you go out of your way to do so. By creating a nurturing and understanding working environment where the occasional wobble in performance is acceptable, normalising the idea that everyone has a bad day, and acknowledging and congratulating the hard work and efforts of those around us, will create a positive working environment, and certainly improve morale.
In his 2014 TED Talk Drew Dudley recalled an instance where he went grocery shopping on a Saturday. He had collected his shopping and joined the shortest queue, which stilled had at least twenty people in front of him in it. He watched the cashier wiz through the conveyor-belt, hastily packing up the items that the shoppers were buying, while the consumers were rude, impatient and didn’t appear to care.
Dudley wondered to himself what he could do to improve her day, and allow her some much-needed recognition for her speed and efficiency, remarking that this woman was probably the best cashier he had ever encountered. And, so, after asking her what one of the sweets on the candy stall in front of him were the best, and she replied, “caramels” in a snappy tone, he spent just two dollars to make her day.
She cried. And Dudley after consoling her was certain that the nasty behaviour that everyone had dealt her before, would likely be swept from the forefront of her mind, because, if someone asked her how her day was, she probably wouldn’t lead with anecdote after anecdote of rude and ungrateful customers treating her like something they had just scraped off the bottom of her shoe. No, she would likely lead with “oh my gosh, someone did the nicest thing for me today”, and talk about the recognition this random man had given her in the form of the caramels.
It was that simple.
When people think of the importance of kindness, they often relate the phrase “be kind” back to tragic celebrity suicides at the hands of the media and social media respectively allowing individuals to anonymously spread hate towards people, uncaring that there is someone else on the other side of that message. The death of Caroline Flack for example, after being arrested for domestic violence, and being demonised by the world around her, lead to the loss of her life, and so, the idea of being considerate of others was stressed. But it goes beyond being nasty to people on the internet.
The need for being kind, and understanding is essential in work; although idealistic, stressing the importance of a person being patient and nice to another is just human decency, and yet, here I am preaching this because it isn’t uncommon after a bad day that your supervisor Cade, has just ripped Lois’ head off for struggling to finish an assignment. Cade doesn’t know what’s keeping Lois and causing delays, maybe she can’t access the content she’s looking at, maybe there’s a technological glitch. He wouldn’t know because instead of speaking to her, he screamed at her, reinforcing that wobbles and errors with time management truly could cost you your job.
How many people have you encountered, that complain about not wanting to go to work on Mondays? And how many of these people complain that it’s because Cade will be breathing down their neck because they’re suddenly on thin ice over one tiny mistake? Its more common than you’d think.
Be kind to your employees. Be kind to your colleagues. Be kind to your suppliers, and vendors. Be as kind to them as you would your customers, or even better, yourself. It makes work much less volatile when you don’t fear having your head ripped off.
For more reading on the ideas mentioned above, you can read The Agile Works’ articles: Empathy and Leadership, and You Have To Get Over The Fear Of Getting Fired.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.
To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: email@example.com