The answer probably isn’t simple

I’ve been writing a blog now for over ten years and over that period I’ve received praise, criticism, support, detraction and sometimes even hate. I often read comments or statements where people ask why anyone bothers blogging anymore, probably much easier to record a film of yourself just out of the gym and post it on LinkedIn.

Smashing it…

For me this has always been a way to set out thoughts or ideas that are buzzing around my head. Incomplete and sometimes inarticulate explorations of something that I’m trying to work out. My average post is about 400-500 words, so you’re never going to explore an idea fully in that space, but maybe set people off thinking too.

Sometimes I sit and write something that I know is going to be awkward. Over the years you develop a sense of the topics that tend to get people het up. The ones where there is a defined collective view that you’re questioning, or the topics where we are being overly British and avoiding. Sometimes the topics feel benign, but then hit a nerve.

Mostly the people that read these articles are people interested in the world of work, leadership, culture and human resource management. People that would espouse the exchanging of ideas, the ability to express unpopular views, the creation of environments that are open and challenging. “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”, how many times have we heard that?

Today as I write this, for very different reasons, people are talking about kindness. There are numerous statements about just “being kind”. And I’m struck by the incredible tension that sits behind such a blanket statement. Be kind to everyone? The rapist? The terrorist? The domestic abuser? Or just the ones that we feel sorry for.

Last week I wrote that if we are serious about inclusion, we have to consider inclusion for all. I can’t help feel that there is a similar tension here. When we start to apply our own filters, our own rules, our own personal criteria then by definition we introduce a level of discrimination to our original assumption. Which is perhaps absolutely fine, perhaps absolutely human, but should come with a level of honesty, rather than a false image of purity.

If we are genuinely interested in creating better working cultures, better environments, event a society that is better for all. If we want these things then we need to understand that the answers are more likely to be found in messy compromise than clarity of simple assertion, that they are more likely to involve us having to calibrate our own beliefs and opinions as much as anyone else.

I’ll leave you with this from Barack Obama, which sums it up nicely.

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,”

“The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”

It doesn’t hurt to be kind

A lesson I’ve learnt as I’ve got older is that kindness is a very different to softness. Too often, images and predetermination of the role of HR professionals can make the young practitioner shy away from kindness, fearing the tag of being soft, weak, indulgent – typical personnel.

This is a complete misunderstanding of kindness.

You can be kind as you break some of the hardest messages to people, deal in the most difficult of situations. You can be kind as you lead others through troubled times. You can be kind in every aspect of your work, no matter how trying or hard.

Being kind is to show consideration for others – that is at the heart of our practice and what we do. The antonym of kind isn’t tough, it is cruel. There is no reason that you cannot be both tough and kind, in fact I’d argue that’s in many ways aspirational.

As we go about our practice, whether you’re a human resources professional, a manager or leader, we can all take time to be a little bit kinder, no matter what the context. By putting ourselves in the position of others, by displaying empathy and understanding, we can help not only to achieve better results, but to learn and grow ourselves.

Kindness in business is not a dirty word, it is the secret that too many overlook.

 

Five simple things

1) Learn in times of adversity – when things are tough you’re forced to look at life with a level of granularity and forensic inspection that can be absent in normal or easier times. Understanding the insight you gain, but not dwelling on it, is key

2) Walk forward with kindness – in the current climate it feels easier to polarise, to hate and to divide. Walking forward with kindness is a simple way we can all shed a little light n the world and bring small actions together to drive change.

3) Action is everything – in the grand scheme of things, we have so little time. Action is everything and defines who and what we are. We can talk and mull and ponder, we can write and reflect and rework. But only the doing actually matters.

4) Live in the gaps – busy lives are full of stuff, of competing demands. They’re noisy and pressured and complicated and oppressive. Live in the silence and gaps that emerge between. Indulge in the moments of nothingness.

5) Do over (and over) – there is no start, no middle, no end. Just a series of iterations and circles. Don’t be afraid to do again, to try, to repeat, to renew and revise. There is no path to take a wrong turn from, just a simple horizon to head for.

Have a good Christmas break and see you in the New Year.

Ten ways to make a better day

Is it me, or is there a general sense of menace and disgruntlement in society? Sometimes it feels like an all-pervasive nastiness is in the air – like atoms bouncing off one another, we go around getting increasingly grumpy with the world.

And of course whilst we can’t all sort the BIG issues of the day, we can do somethings, sometimes to make life a little bit better for someone else.

  1. Make a coffee for a colleague without asking. Just take them a drink along and say “I made this for you”.
  2. Have a conversation with a shop assistant. Not about your shopping, just make eye contact, smile and be nice. Treat them like a person.
  3. Open a door for a stranger. Not metaphorically, but literally. Engage your inner English Gentleman and hold the door.
  4. Let someone out at a junction. On that drive home, when you’re desperate to get back into your sanctuary, make a little bit of time to help someone else do the same.
  5. Ask someone who looks lost whether they need directions. Sure, this depends on where you are, but if you get the chance, give it a go.
  6. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. OK, so there’s a caveat to this – make sure it’s situationally appropriate. But take the chance to say hello.
  7. Send someone a thank you. Take a moment out of your busy life to write a thank you note. It doesn’t have to be for anything big or clever, just real.
  8. Give your seat up with a smile. If you commute to work on a train, a bus a tram or a tube give your seat up for someone else. It won’t hurt you to stand for one trip.
  9.  Buy someone a treat. It could be your receptionist or security guard. The person at the crossing by school. It could be a chocolate bar, biscuit or snack – just because.
  10. Take time to listen. I mean really listen Give up half an hour of your day to look the person in the eye, put your phone down and not think about anything else.

We can’t change the big stuff, but if we all change the small stuff, the world can be a slightly nicer place.