Cultural Kindness

The 2018 Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights at the Market Open of the London Stock Exchange

In the words of Arundhati Roy, ‘nothing could be worse than a return to normality’. The pandemic has ripped through our personal and professional lives leaving devastation in its wake and yet it has also given us a unique opportunity to reflect on the world we wish to return to. In a business context, I believe we can learn from our experiences, and we need to act fast to implement permanent cultural change that will enable individuals and businesses to thrive. Here are three considerations I hope all businesses put at the top of the agenda.

Kindness is a critical leadership quality

A recent survey conducted by Hall & Partners, and inspired by a unique and separate collaboration with the Women of the Future Programme, Oxford Saïd Business School and the Global Thinkers Forum, has delved deep into global leadership styles that have been truly effective at this time, interviewing employees all over the world. The one quality that shines out above all others? Kindness.

When traditional hierarchies and power dynamics are shaken to their core and tough decisions are required, kindness has been vital. It has been the quality that has enabled open and honest communication and kept teams engaged, motivated and inspired. In some of the darkest and desolate moments, the value of kindness has lit up the road ahead.

To value kindness as a non-negotiable leadership quality takes courage but it is, time and time again, the quality that retains talent and brings out the very best in people (read the full Kindness Leadership During Crisis findings). When we need to build confidence and trust as we do now; when we need to create an environment in which innovative ideas, adaptability and resilience flourish, it’s kindness that’s the secret weapon. In the words of one of our Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights, Jackie Scully, Executive Director at Think Publishing:

“If you’re kind, you foster a creative workplace. If people are fearful, if they’re worried or under too much stress, they don’t give themselves the time and space to be creative. If you’re kind to people it means they’re not afraid to come up with ideas or say the wrong thing. That means you get better innovation and thought processes.

“If people think a company cares about them, they are more likely to care about a company and that’s when you get great efficiency, great productivity and a great working environment.”

Fundamental change is necessary

In a six-month swoop, 2020 has debunked issues that have been bandied about the boardroom table for generations. We can no longer reply ‘it’s just not possible’ since we know that everything can change in a blink. And what an opportunity this is for us to challenge every process, every ‘rule’.

Take flexible working as an example. To step through the ‘portal’ that the pandemic provides, businesses need to cement flexible working options. Almost half (49%) of UK employees are calling for these options to underpin work culture going forward.

And human resources as another example. A recent study in the US found 87% of employees responding that they would not discuss bereavement with their HR team. As reported in Forbes, “This underreporting makes sense… it’s not unusual for companies to have policies that require “proof” of a death in cases of paid time off for bereavement. This un-empathic approach only exacerbates the grief an employee is feeling. And for employees currently dealing with illness and loss because of Covid-19, this is an especially difficult time to feel a lack of support from HR.”

The rule book has been thrown out. Now is the time to reevaluate company values and policies so that they work in the best interests of our people.

Inclusion is not enough

Already entrenched inequalities have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 fallout. According to statistics published by The World Economic Forum, the UK’s lockdown has had a disproportionate economic impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, finding that in some cases these groups were three times more likely than their white counterparts to have lost their jobs. Reports pre-Covid-19 indicated that FTSE 100 businesses are likely to miss their diversity targets of having just one BAME individual on every board by 2021. There are also countless studies worldwide pointing to the greater burden that this challenging year has placed on women.

We don’t need any more depressing stats to know that businesses must move beyond tick boxes on the diversity and inclusion agenda and ensure that all employees feel a true sense of belonging. I love the way Anita Sands puts it: “Diversity is a fact (the numbers are what they are), inclusion is a choice (you decide whether to include someone or not), but belonging is a feeling that can be enforced by a culture that you can purposefully create.” It’s only when everyone can bring their full authentic selves to the workplace and ‘belong’ that we can thrive. Celebrate difference: open your minds, open your hearts.

There is hope

And so I leave you as I began, with the wisdom of Arundhati Roy: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Together, with collaboration and kindness across cultures and the world, we have the chance to build a new world. There is hope.

I hope you will all look to lead with kindness, not just in your communities and home lives, but in your places of work and as global citizens.

Pinky Lilani CBE DL
Pinky Lilani CBE DL is the Founder of the Women of the Future Programme. If you too believe that kindness has the power to effect positive change in this fragile world, nominate a kind leader for the Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights 2020 list and let’s help determine the leadership style and business culture that we want to succeed.
kindnessrules.co.uk
Twitter: @KindnessRules
#leadwithkindness

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Cultural Kindness

The 2018 Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights at the Market Open of the London Stock Exchange

In the words of Arundhati Roy, ‘nothing could be worse than a return to normality’. The pandemic has ripped through our personal and professional lives leaving devastation in its wake and yet it has also given us a unique opportunity to reflect on the world we wish to return to. In a business context, I believe we can learn from our experiences, and we need to act fast to implement permanent cultural change that will enable individuals and businesses to thrive. Here are three considerations I hope all businesses put at the top of the agenda.

Kindness is a critical leadership quality

A recent survey conducted by Hall & Partners, and inspired by a unique and separate collaboration with the Women of the Future Programme, Oxford Saïd Business School and the Global Thinkers Forum, has delved deep into global leadership styles that have been truly effective at this time, interviewing employees all over the world. The one quality that shines out above all others? Kindness.

When traditional hierarchies and power dynamics are shaken to their core and tough decisions are required, kindness has been vital. It has been the quality that has enabled open and honest communication and kept teams engaged, motivated and inspired. In some of the darkest and desolate moments, the value of kindness has lit up the road ahead.

To value kindness as a non-negotiable leadership quality takes courage but it is, time and time again, the quality that retains talent and brings out the very best in people (read the full Kindness Leadership During Crisis findings). When we need to build confidence and trust as we do now; when we need to create an environment in which innovative ideas, adaptability and resilience flourish, it’s kindness that’s the secret weapon. In the words of one of our Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights, Jackie Scully, Executive Director at Think Publishing:

“If you’re kind, you foster a creative workplace. If people are fearful, if they’re worried or under too much stress, they don’t give themselves the time and space to be creative. If you’re kind to people it means they’re not afraid to come up with ideas or say the wrong thing. That means you get better innovation and thought processes.

“If people think a company cares about them, they are more likely to care about a company and that’s when you get great efficiency, great productivity and a great working environment.”

Fundamental change is necessary

In a six-month swoop, 2020 has debunked issues that have been bandied about the boardroom table for generations. We can no longer reply ‘it’s just not possible’ since we know that everything can change in a blink. And what an opportunity this is for us to challenge every process, every ‘rule’.

Take flexible working as an example. To step through the ‘portal’ that the pandemic provides, businesses need to cement flexible working options. Almost half (49%) of UK employees are calling for these options to underpin work culture going forward.

And human resources as another example. A recent study in the US found 87% of employees responding that they would not discuss bereavement with their HR team. As reported in Forbes, “This underreporting makes sense… it’s not unusual for companies to have policies that require “proof” of a death in cases of paid time off for bereavement. This un-empathic approach only exacerbates the grief an employee is feeling. And for employees currently dealing with illness and loss because of Covid-19, this is an especially difficult time to feel a lack of support from HR.”

The rule book has been thrown out. Now is the time to reevaluate company values and policies so that they work in the best interests of our people.

Inclusion is not enough

Already entrenched inequalities have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 fallout. According to statistics published by The World Economic Forum, the UK’s lockdown has had a disproportionate economic impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, finding that in some cases these groups were three times more likely than their white counterparts to have lost their jobs. Reports pre-Covid-19 indicated that FTSE 100 businesses are likely to miss their diversity targets of having just one BAME individual on every board by 2021. There are also countless studies worldwide pointing to the greater burden that this challenging year has placed on women.

We don’t need any more depressing stats to know that businesses must move beyond tick boxes on the diversity and inclusion agenda and ensure that all employees feel a true sense of belonging. I love the way Anita Sands puts it: “Diversity is a fact (the numbers are what they are), inclusion is a choice (you decide whether to include someone or not), but belonging is a feeling that can be enforced by a culture that you can purposefully create.” It’s only when everyone can bring their full authentic selves to the workplace and ‘belong’ that we can thrive. Celebrate difference: open your minds, open your hearts.

There is hope

And so I leave you as I began, with the wisdom of Arundhati Roy: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Together, with collaboration and kindness across cultures and the world, we have the chance to build a new world. There is hope.

I hope you will all look to lead with kindness, not just in your communities and home lives, but in your places of work and as global citizens.

Pinky Lilani CBE DL
Pinky Lilani CBE DL is the Founder of the Women of the Future Programme. If you too believe that kindness has the power to effect positive change in this fragile world, nominate a kind leader for the Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights 2020 list and let’s help determine the leadership style and business culture that we want to succeed.
kindnessrules.co.uk
Twitter: @KindnessRules
#leadwithkindness

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