If you were asked, “Can kindness help business?”, what would you answer?
I became intrigued with this question because of yet another article in the Harvard Business Review with techniques on how to manage a politically polarized workforce. Then I had a business meeting experience that gave me hope.
Kindness is one of the 24 VIA Strengths. I remember the first time I had a conversation with an entrepreneurial client who had just found out they had Kindness as one of their top 5 strengths. They knew it was an accurate assessment of their strength. They also wondered aloud if being kind had hindered their success. My answer then is the same as it would be now, better to be kind and screwed than ruthless and rich. When I am feeling particularly snarky, I envision a tombstone that reads: Here lies the richest, most ruthless person who ever lived. To be clear, not a goal I or my client looked to achieve!
Kindness as a strength was on full display at a recent business event Latin Chamber of Commerce event, Women in Power. The tone was set from the start for kindness and cooperation. Full disclosure: I do not have kindness as a top strength (or anywhere near the top) yet I do have Spirituality so what follows did hit me comfortably. That will not be the case for everyone.
To open the meeting, Chairman Andres Estrada this prayer:
“God of peace, we pray for unity in our meeting today. We have come together as a group united in passion and purpose. Come and help us maintain unity as we discuss certain matters. We pray for open hearts and minds that will promote and accept better ideas. Dear God, we seek Your honor in everything we do and say. So, we lift up this meeting to You. Be in our midst. Bind our hearts and minds by Your Spirit. Amen.”
The first speaker followed the tone Chairman Estrada set. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latin female senator in US history. Cortez Masto is representative of a woman in power, especially for the Latin Chamber. For the record, she is a Democrat. To my delight, the Senator used the word kindness several times in her presentation. She spoke of specific government initiatives to help businesses and especially small businesses. She acknowledged the struggles businesses are having in our community and state. She cheered the dropping of the mask mandate for travel knowing it had an impact on our largest industry, tourism. Cortez Masto offered an open entry to her staff to assist with business needs.
What she did not do was disparage any political opponents, mention committees, blame, or shame others. In politics and in business, that is kindness in action.
The consensual definition of kindness for purposes of the VIA research is:
Kindness, generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, and altruistic love are a network of closely related terms indicating a common orientation of the self toward others. (Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004) Character Strengths and Virtues: Handbook and Classifications, 326.
The opening benediction had those characteristics. The Senator exhibited those characteristics through her speech. Why is all this important? Because doing business was always challenging and with heightened divisiveness kindness is a bridge to cooperation.