A Career of Kindness By: Eileen Marshall
Here at The Training Connection, we talk about the impact and value of mentoring – a LOT. This is the heart of what we do, of course! On a regular basis, mentors share with us how much they are gaining from their mentoring partnerships, often reporting they themselves feel they have benefitted more from the relationship than their mentees. How can that be?
The word "Mentor” is analogous to the word "Parent” in that it is both a noun and a verb. To mentor another is an act of generosity, and highly altruistic. So, what do these mentors know that others don’t? We can all agree that coworkers who are kind and generous are more likeable than those who are not, but does kindness equate to professional success? Can being kind and generous be a prescription for career advancement?
There is a plethora of research and articles that conclude that kindness and generosity of spirit can positively transform the workplace as well as give those who practice these virtues a competitive edge in the following ways:
Kindness Helps Us Work With Others
Whether you are new to your organization or a seasoned veteran, you’re likely going to work with many different personalities; co-workers, managers, supervisors, contractors, etc. The truth is, you aren’t always in sync with all of the people you interact with on a daily basis, but in a professional setting, you need to find ways to not only be cordial, but also work as a team to accomplish shared goals and objectives. The first step is always kindness. It costs nothing and even if the recipient of your generosity of spirit is not receptive, others will be inspired by the effort – and over time your continued kindness will be seen as a valuable strength.
Kindness Draws Others In
You can’t expect to be best friends with everyone, but you can still develop real, solid connections with coworkers and teammates. When you are kind and show you care about your peers and colleagues, it motivates them to make time for you when it comes to collaborating on a complex task, or simply lending a hand when you are feeling overwhelmed and need help. For example, in a previous position, some coworkers and I donated leave to a fellow coworker who was facing a medical crisis and just didn’t have accrued leave. The colleague was very well-like, in addition to being a conscientious and valuable team member.
Kindness is Contagious
You can choose not to sink to an unkind person’s level. Although it can be your first defensive reaction – it won’t pay off in the long run. People who demonstrate emotional intelligence elevate their reputations by being assertively kind. This reduces traction for a negative person to keep pushing against. In addition, when others witness acts of kindness, they also get a surge of well-being and will often feel encouraged to perform an act of kindness of their own. From a professional perspective: would you rather work with or promote someone who is disengaged or someone who is thoughtfully responsive?
Kindness and generosity aren’t just good for individual success, they’re also beneficial to an organization:
Kindness Improves Creativity
Respectful engagement with individuals and teams enhances creativity – the engine of innovation. Respectful engagement, a fancy way of saying kindness, is conveying presence, communicating affirmation, effective listening and supportive communication. All foster a more positive work environment and a higher sense of worth and creativity!
Kindness Fosters Loyalty
According to a recent U.K. study, eight in ten workers would not accept a position, even if it paid more, if it meant working with people with whom they did not get along. The fact is, salary/compensation is pretty far down the list in terms of factors keeping employees loyal. The vast majority, according to the research, prioritize good relationships over concerns about money.
If your boss, teammates or company acknowledged when you were out sick, lost a loved one or celebrated a life-event (e.g., the birth of a baby, wedding, birthday, etc.), then you know first-hand the impact kindness can have on your desire to stay.
By being intentionally kind and generous, you inherently bring out positive qualities in others. Like ripples on the pond, kindness from one person can expand and positively affect others around you. This is one of the many reasons that mentors are so very remarkable – they not only recognize this concept, but also practice on a daily basis. They continuously plant the seeds for trees from which they might never enjoy the fruit – but they enjoy being kind and generous anyway.
Ask a Mentor
Genuine and authentic acts of kindness can translate into real results – reduced attrition, motivated employees, improved creativity, and improved morale and employee well-being. Here are some thoughtful questions you can ask to learn more about what role kindness plays in your mentor’s experience and approach to success. You can also learn how to improve your own:
What was the most significant gesture of kindness that you have experienced - professionally and personally?
How did that one act transform your way of thinking?
How has kindness helped you to advance in your career?
What are some areas/situations where kindness can have the greatest payoff?
What have you done for others in the past that has given you the most reward and why?
How can you begin to be mindful of the opportunities that arise to display kindness?
What should you be looking for in terms of situations/events?
What are the best strategies to sidestep gossip and elevate others?
About the Author
Eileen Marshall is a Program Manager and Facilitator for The Training Connection. Eileen’s professional experience includes writing, public affairs, government relations, grass-roots advocacy, event management and non-profit development. Eileen specializes in fostering mentoring relationships, providing guidance to individuals and partnerships to identify opportunities for growth and strategies for course-correction, and provides personal outreach to program participants to ensure all have a positive, constructive experience.