Kindness Makes Commercial Sense. As we turn our attention to getting back to the “new normal” – whatever that looks like – we are asking our teams to navigate yet more change. And this time, it is unclear quite what to do for the best.
No more the clear – if constraining – “Stay at home” message. A more middle class easing of lockdown is difficult to imagine – we can have cleaners in our homes but loved ones have to stay outside. I am sorry – what??
Now we are encouraged to get back to work, “shop with confidence” and generally get back to some kind of normal. But this is anything but normal.
After months of enforced confinement and fear, we are all emotionally spent. We are worried about getting ill, losing our jobs, paying the rent, feeding our families. And now, with COVID-19 an ever-present threat, we are asked to go out and do our bit to aid economic recovery.
We can see the practical measure taken to reduced risk of transmission – weird floor markings, hand sanitiser, the requirement to wear face coverings (though one might argue such coverings create a false sense of security, rather than preventing infection). But what about our emotional wellbeing?
We are navigating a highly uncertain future, fraught with risk, and our emotions are in tatters.
Returning to work after lockdown will be different, daunting for many and very different to the last three months of isolation. We are asking everyone to navigate further change, a “new normal” that we are making up as we go along.
We must help people to play their part in the change we are asking of them. We resist change at the best of times – it is part of the human condition. Recognising and addressing this, therefore, is key to helping people to successfully transition.
As employers, we can provide much-needed empathy and support for our teams and customers. We need open channels of communication, so our people understand the need for change and have the desire and knowledge to play their part in bringing it about. We need to train and coach team members to develop the skills they will need to succeed in the new normal.
And above all, we need to be patient, kind and take the time to listen to individual fears and concerns.
There have been some remarkable displays of community and kindness during lockdown – looking out for the more vulnerable, shopping, delivering medication, taking time to chat to the lonely. It is now time to transfer this humanity into the workplace.
As leaders, we need to be alive to our teams’ emotional vulnerability – be empathetic, kind and watchful of signs of struggling. We need to encourage everyone to be supportive of each other and pragmatic in adapting to the new rules.
And for those of you rolling your eyes heavenward at this touchy-feely nonsense, be aware that many studies have proven the link between so-called soft skills, productivity and commercial success. So, far from being the preserve of do-gooder, leadership development types like me, kindness and compassion make cold, hard commercial sense.