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A few weeks back, Kevin and I went to see Jewel in concert at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater, Florida.  If you are not familiar with Jewel, she is a singer-song writer who was musically discovered in San Diego, California in the mid 90’s and since then has sold over 20 million albums worldwide.  Jewel is an amazing artist. Her voice is angelic, her guitar playing is mesmerizing and her lyrics are enlightening.  One of her songs, “Hands” gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.  And because of that song, I did something at this concert that I have not done since high school-I spent $45 on a sweatshirt from the artist merchandise table.   Don’t get me wrong, my purchase was not an easy buy.  My responsible side reminded me that I don’t need a sweatshirt in Florida, especially one that I could buy for less than 20 bucks at any other store. However, on this particular evening, my authentic and compassionate side prevailed! The reason I felt compelled to buy this sweatshirt is because printed on it was my favorite line from my favorite song, “Hands”, “Only Kindness Matters.”

So I paid for the shirt and then Kevin and I went in to enjoy the concert.  Guess what song Jewel opened the show with……”Hands.”  She shared with us that was not the song she had planned to open with, but she felt compelled to sing it.  Well, from that moment on my mind was constantly replaying the lyrics from the song’s chorus “My hands are small, I know, But they’re not yours they are my own, But they’re not yours they are my own, And I am never broken, In the end only kindness matters, In the end only kindness matters.”  The words remind me that even though I may feel small in this big world, I can leave my mark on humanity with one thing alone….. kindness.  In fact, kindness is one of the traits many of the people we see as the greatest leaders in the world possess.

Unfortunately, in society and especially in the business world kindness has become synonymous with weakness.  In fact, I can remember as a young female professional starting out in the business world, I was encouraged to be tough on people because to be otherwise would make me appear less powerful.  I tried the firm and tough way for many years, and while it appeared to work because promotions and pay raises came quickly to me, I discovered the consequences for those actions.   I was disliked and feared by many team members and peers.  More importantly, I felt dissatisfied with my interactions with others, which left me completely stressed out and anxious.  You see, I was completely out of alignment with my southern upbringing of being kind and loving to all people even in difficult situations, including myself.  I was not being true to myself and my own values. “In the end, only kindness matters.”  Through this experience, I learned kindness does matter and it can be very powerful for everyone involved.  Here’s three things to remember to make being kind powerful in business and in your personal life.

Kindness comes in all forms.

We often think of kindness as a small thing like smiling at someone, opening the door for a person who has their hands full, or helping an elderly person cross the street.  But kindness doesn’t just come in these kinds of helpful gestures.  It also comes when you have the courage to lovingly share the tough truth with an individual.  For instance, if you have a team member whose performance is not up to par, the kind act is to share with them what is working and what could be improved.  Avoiding difficult conversations is actually much meaner than being open, loving and honest with an individual.   Kindness also comes when you ensure that your communication and requests are clear.  I feel it is one of the cruelest forms of relating when we bark instructions at people and assume they know what we are saying.  To me, that is a very subtle form of torture because we have left too much room for interpretation which will lead to that person’s demise.   I believe kindness is about genuinely desiring to provide the space for another person to be successful and feel proud of themselves.  By the way, you can’t give to others what you don’t have, so remember, be kind to yourself first!  Leaders know kindness comes in all shapes and sizes.

Kindness increases productivity.

Studies have proven that acts of kindness increases levels of the hormones dopamine and oxytocin.  These two hormones are essential for both heart and mind health.  Dopamine is the feel good hormone and each time we give and receive an act of kindness, we get a rush of feeling good throughout our entire body.  Oxytocin gets increased for each kind action which helps reduce blood pressure and the levels of the free radicals which cause us to age.  Because being kind to others makes us feel happier and less stressed, we naturally can be more productive in every action we take both at work and at home.  Can you remember a time when you did something nice for someone and how it made you feel?  If it was a genuinely caring act, you probably got a rush of happiness or felt a nice warmth fill you..  Either way, I am confident you felt energized and ready to take on more in your world, even if for a brief moment.  Next time you feel the need to be “tough” on someone, think about how you can deliver the intention of your message in a kind way.  You will find the result empowering for you and the other individual.  Leaders use kindness to increase productivity.

Kindness is contagious.

Unfortunately, in society today, the word contagious usually gets associated with germs and sickness.  But just like the common cold can spread rapidly throughout an organization, so can kindness.  Regardless of your position or title, you can be a leader by simply being kind to others.  I have seen this happen on more than one occasion when an individual enters a room of very disgruntled people and with simple act of genuine compassion or gentle communication they can transform the mood from angry to calm.  One of my good friends was a marriage counselor who shared that if couples got angry and started yelling during sessions, he would keep his tone of voice low, almost in a whisper voice while they were arguing. After a few minutes, of this calming voice and kind behavior, the couples would change the way they were speaking with each other.  In addition, when you are kind to others, you demonstrate and give them permission to be kind to themselves and others.  Leaders light the kindness fire and pass it on.

So you see, “in the end, only kindness matters.”  Thanks Jewel Kilcher for writing a powerful line of music.  To be a leader at work and at home, focus on being kind even in difficult situations and watch your productivity soar while you set the world on fire!  Be kind and prosper!

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