I’m not a certified behavioral expert. No one is endorsing me. I don’t subscribe to one business methodology or another, or actually, to any for that matter. I don’t have an MBA. I am a believer that everyone has superhero powers. I know about the magic that happens when we tap into them. I am a person who works with intent to do business the right way, for the right reasons-at every turn. I’ve experienced the joy and success that intention creates in business. (Yes, joy in business!) I spread soul-shine and look for opportunities to foster it in others at every turn.
I’ve worked for companies with toxic cultures that entrust their fate to “leaders” who define success by a myriad of contrived, absurd metrics; metrics that are insignificant at best. They assume one way, their way, of working is “the way”. Those metrics have nothing to do with the human beings doing business together. I therefore deem them ridiculous. I’ve seen talented people with powerful, original and beautiful ideas have the life and enthusiasm sucked right out of them by people in companies who placed their worth and their value in all the wrong things. I’ve also been super fortunate. I’ve worked for myself where I paved a path that took a business from a dream to a thriving company. I’ve worked for amazing people who have wisely celebrated effective quirkiness, originality and the vastness of human potential. Those people encouraged other people to share, grow and lead. They celebrated the soul-shine and in return, they experienced joy and magic in business.
During my years of working with people on both ends of the energy continuum, I’ve adopted a handful of tenets that guide my work and the way I approach most everything in my life. I call these tenets my “High Five”. They are (and in this order) kindness, integrity, curiosity, patience and persistence. Over the years, my colleagues, clients and friends have poked and prodded me to share a little about the way I roll in a public way. So, here goes. Tenet #1: kindness. I’ll shine a light on the other four, one at a time in future articles. With any luck, a few of you reading will grab a little nugget that speaks to you and that nugget will move you to work a little differently. With a little more luck, we’ll spark big magic in the corporate world by changing the way we work with one another.
Tenet 1: Kindness: Do no harm. Leave everyone and everything better.
In 2014, I was offered the opportunity to challenge myself, to be brave and become part of something super cool- a little tech startup with big potential and even bigger dreams. After a few hours of searching Google, reading Twitter and reading posts by various industry experts, I was so intrigued by what the young company was doing, I said yes to meeting the CEO to learn more. Within minutes of that first meeting, I realized I was fortunate. His priority was culture first. He was on a mission to ensure the people he hired fit the culture he was committed to creating. His first core value was my first tenet: kindness. We were aligned. I was in the right place with the right people.
I had meetings with the trail blazers in the company and long talks with my family. I was so moved by the superheroes the CEO had brought together and so aligned to their mission that I made the decision to leap. I left my safe, secure, well-paying job to work 12 hour days, travel exponentially more and earn 70% less, at the start. I leapt to work with these incredible people and to write a fabulous story.
I’ve never looked back. The technology was and is spectacular-no doubt. That said, the REAL magic began with the tribe of relentlessly passionate people who were brought together to take what we were doing into the world. Together, we navigated uncharted territory, wrote rules to guide our work and wore as many hats as needed to solve complicated puzzles. We made magic and people felt it when we walked into meetings. We committed all of our efforts to the good of the people we served. We wanted our work to make their lives better, easier, less complicated. Our mission was to take our little open source project to every corner of the globe and back and to be trusted partners for the clients who entrusted us with their business. We wanted to be happy because they chose to work with us. Everything we did then, and everything we do today, begins with the first tenet of my High Five: kindness. We love our work. We love the magic our work brings to other people and we’re still having the time of our lives, even when the puzzles are tough to solve.
Kindness is innate, powerful and contagious. It propagates magic. It’s one of the things most needed yet most absent in business today. Most people know and subscribe to the idea that energy begets energy. That said, I have to wonder why so many people leave kindness out of their work. Maybe it’s a function of technology and the false barriers we have allowed it to create in our lives. Maybe it’s the notion that if we are kind in business, we are soft. Maybe it’s because most of us have far too many emails, too many texts- too much on our plates so we enter auto-pilot mode. Maybe we’re afraid of doing things differently or we make false assumptions about expectations. Maybe we’ve become jaded and have simply forgotten about the magic that one person can spark. We need to give ourselves space to re-visit kindness.
I am involved in a mind-numbing number of business interactions each week: emails, phone calls, text exchanges, meetings, deadlines. You know the drill. Every time someone invites me to join them or says “yes” to joining me, I pause and remind myself of one humbling fact. No one had to ask me to join them or say “yes” to my request. They have made a choice– an agreement to spend time with me. It is my responsibility to honor our time together. Working from that place, I lead with kindness and ask myself: “What is it these fabulous people need from me?” I work intentionally to create a space of openness, friendliness, generosity and consideration. I want to make sure the people I’m spending time with leave feeling very happy about their choice. I greet everyone with 100% pure, unadulterated soul-shine. I hug people when I walk in and I hug them when I leave. I meet their eyes with genuine interest. I ask curious questions. I listen so I can understand. I consider what they’ve shared and I apply it to helping them solve their business puzzles. I thank them.
Most of my meetings happen in unremarkable board rooms or virtual spaces. Some days, the meetings are easy; everyone gathered knows one another and the topics we discuss and puzzles we need to solve are pretty simple. Other days, we are people meeting for the first time, business is complicated, for one reason or another, things have gone off the rails and we collectively need to course correct. We have to sort how to successfully work together. Whatever the case, my experience has undoubtedly been this. When I lead with kindness and honor the time I have with others, people feel it. They are surprised and inspired by that feeling. They remember it. They work to match my kindness with theirs. Magic happens and it is palpable. Impossibly busy people put their phones away, honor our time together and they focus with me. We breathe. We talk with each other from a place of kindness and we exchange exciting, sometimes even crazy, ideas. We listen to each other to understand. We celebrate creativity and give each other space to stretch; to challenge ourselves, our thinking and the way we work. We create common ground, chart our path forward and we agree on what we will each contribute to reach nirvana. Big, fabulous, magical, business happens. It grows rooted in kindness and it grows stronger than most of us could ever imagine.