Throughout my career I’ve been able to explore what makes me happy at work. Unique benefits are nice, interesting clients help, fair pay is a requirement, but my day-to-day happiness seems to boil down to one thing: whether or not my boss is kind.
For some, a misconception exists that kindness is spinelessness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, sometimes the kindest thing you can do is share honestly with someone or fight tooth and nail for the success of your business. As my influence and responsibility have increased at Township, I’ve given a lot of thought to what I can do to make work a kinder place. Today I’ll share them with you!
1. Offer trust from day one.
Trust is something that comes up a lot in conversations about remote work. Here’s my take: people don’t earn my trust by putting in time on the job, rather they’ve already earned it when we decide to add them to our team. What this looks like in practice is being careful not to make your team feel surveilled and maintaining an optimistic evaluation of your team’s abilities and motivations.
2. If you can’t do it right, you probably shouldn’t do it.
Running a business is a lifelong learning process, during which you’re bound to experience mishaps and failure. I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about things like not maintaining a fair compensation plan or using a hiring process in which bias is pervasive. If you can’t offer a kind workplace to all, you might as well close up shop. I truly believe this.
3. The work/life balance you model is the one your team will think you expect.
If you’re responding to Slack messages while you’re on a beach taking PTO, your team will interpret that to mean that they’re never truly allowed to be unplugged. When you’re in leadership it can take an extraordinary amount of preparation to be fully away, but the benefits to your company culture are worth it (your mental health will thank you too!).
Other ways it’s important to model work/life balance are by taking your full parental leave, not sending emails or Slack messages during off hours, and never texting your teammates (unless you’ve been invited to do so, socially). Every time you choose to wait, you are acknowledging that the people on your team have a life outside of work. Respecting the importance of their presence elsewhere goes a long way, where generating unnecessary urgency is unkind.
4. Clarity is a kindness.
For me, and anyone else that has a touch of impostor syndrome, nothing feels worse than not understanding what is expected of me, or not knowing if I’ve done a good job. Put extra effort into communicating expectations to your team clearly, and then acknowledge when expectations have been met or need to be readjusted. Be explicit in your approachability when people need clarification about a task too. A kind boss will find the patience to revisit a conversation and fill in the blanks they didn’t know were there. Now that I think about it, this is just general life advice.
5. Show your humanity.
When you’re in a leadership position, old wisdom might tell you that you need to always put on a brave face. In my experience, people really just want to know that you get it. If you’ve had a long night with a teething baby, commiserate with the parents on your team. If the company has a tough quarter, be open about how that’s made you uneasy at times. You are most human when you have shared experiences and most trustworthy when you peel the curtain back a bit to your range of emotions.
These are the five places I would start to build more kindness into your company culture. Kindness isn’t always easy, but with practice it will become second nature and transform your team.