BE KIND FOR A CHANGE®
Kindness has the power to change lives.
Spread it everywhere you go.
When a person grows from a narrow, ego-framed life focus upon "me-me-me" into the wider, more self-less embrace of "we," his or her degree of conscious, mindful awareness expands exponentially. In the ancient Pali language (used to preserve the Buddhist canon of the Theravada Buddhist tradition), the word for heart and mind are the same. Therefore, kindness is the heart-full-ness companion of mindfulness in action, and is not source-dependent like the elusive pursuit of valuing transitory, surface-level happiness can be; yet kindness often brings forth the even deeper state of joy naturally. The experience of joy is a positive outcome of extending kindness toward others without expectations, agendas, or a desire for reciprocity, and becomes an integrated component of who we are and how we show up in any given situation or encounter - and is sustainable because it arises from a spirit of abundance, not a sense of lack.
Teaching mindfulness skills in the workplace environment is often centered around introducing practices that can offer measurable results and a tangible ROI to the organization, such as improved employee performance, focus, and productivity; an attempt to "manage" or "reduce" the effects of chronic stress; and improved awareness and self-regulation through the inclusion of emotional intelligence training and simple conflict resolution techniques. All are noble efforts that are having a beneficial impact, moving away from the old status quo of how work gets done.
However, fear-based thinking, acting and behaving by employees, management and leadership contaminates a workplace into a toxic environment. Mindfulness trainings may be brought in for only the above-listed benefits, and can be merely a band-aid over metastasizing cancers. A highly competitive and frequently uncivil culture within an organization (and extended outward) fuels all sorts of unkindness that is often justified as "business, not personal" – even though real live human beings suffer damages on multiple levels with this type of workplace stress - that cannot be simply "meditated away." If a culture of social mindfulness does not become transparently adopted and continuously supported within all levels of an organization, once the trainers have left the building, the long-term transformative capabilities of mindfulness practices are eventually lost if they are not modeled in an inclusive and authentic manner.
And if kindness is viewed as a weakness, it will happen even faster.
Being kind in our professional lives makes logical business sense, as just about everyone wants to be treated with respect, honesty, fairness and appreciation. However, if a workplace environment is not consciously created to bring forth honorable and humane relationship behaviors between all stakeholders (and to feel psychologically safe to bring to light that which doesn't) what Case Western University Professor Dr. Richard Boyatzis teaches about Resonant Leadership in his book and trainings of the same name is absolutely true: what makes common sense isn't always common practice. While cultivating compassion and empathy is touched upon in almost every basic mindfulness training (via teaching what is commonly known as the "compassion practice" or "loving-kindness meditation"), teaching about kindness (along with its companions benevolence and goodwill) is worthy of greater emphasis within any trainer's "mindfulness toolkit" than it sometimes is given. This is especially true now that there is increasing scientific evidence to back up kindness' value as not only a trainable skill, but also one that can help to attain the ever-present reality of the business' financial bottom line, while also contributing to facilitating wholeness within a broken workplace, and by modeling how caring organizations can be what the Dalai Lama envisions as "a force for good,"written about in the book of the same name by Daniel Goleman.
Those of us who don't need science to validate the positive influence of kindness in all areas of life (and particularly at work) couldn't be more thrilled to see what is simply common business sense may indeed someday become common business practice. "B Corporations," the Conscious Capitalism movement, and Frederic Laloux's Reinventing Organization's "Teal" model all show that both mindfulness and kindness are part of the growing new paradigm of humane and whole businesses - and their leadership. While the ROI of kindness may be a bit harder to measure for investor or board-requested metrics, it undoubtedly offers priceless intrinsic value in creating a workplace where people feel both valued and psychologically safe when they come to work each day, and the bottom line is achieved through a collective spirit of contribution, collaboration, caring and cohesiveness.