A call for kindness

selfKindness is considered an irrelevant luxury by most business organizations.  This error is not due to lack of guidance from wise teachers. Peter Drucker advocated it more than 60 years ago, although he did not use that specific word.

In 1980 Drucker advised managers to assign employees to tasks where they could make a difference that would benefit the organization. In Managing in Turbulent Times he wrote, “Managers need to realize that they are being paid for enabling people to do the work for which those people are being paid.”

He told managers to ask employees, “And what do we do, and what do I do that hampers you?” He said it must be asked of all employees. That kind of candor and respect is what I mean by kindness.

“And what do we do, and what do I do that hampers you?”

Managers in 2015 pretend to have all the answers without asking the important questions. This pretense creates the need for what Chris Argyris calls defensive routines. Defensive routines then create the need for what Argyris calls fancy footwork as a cover up for the defensive routines. Soon nothing is what it appears to be. Nothing is real.

kindness |ˈkīn(d)nisnoun the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

Defensive routines and fancy footwork drive out kindness. That is why so few organizations practice, or even tolerate, kindness. Large organizations are deeply entrenched in practices that deny reality.

I have been evicted from several large organizations for advocating kindness and candor, and I have several dear friends who have had the same experience. I advocate kindness because the practice of kindness enhances business results. It enables people to perform at their highest level and produce results that are disproportionately large relative to the investment made to achieve them.

We must recognize that without kindness management is bound to fail, or at least to produce meager results relative to the investment required. Kindness is not a luxury. Our future depends on it.


2 thoughts on “A call for kindness

  1. I was a minor league university administrator for a few years, and the worst administrators I encountered were invariably the smartest. Their common mistake – an easy one to make in academia – was to believe that a good administrator was one who had the best ideas and constructed the best arguments on behalf of those ideas. When I retired, the one piece of wisdom I tried to pass along was that being a successful supervisor is about building relationships. As James Stewart’s character said in the film Harvey, “‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

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