What My Boss Taught Me About Kindness

It’s 2013 and I’m sitting in my boss’ office overwhelmed with worry about having to ask for three days off to attend my grandmother’s funeral in England. At the time, I was in a position where it was hard to find last-minute coverage and each individual was relied upon for a daily program to run. As I sit down at her desk, I struggle to fight back the tears and I’m barely able to voice my request. Her answer: “Go. Just go. We’ll handle it.” It’s now five years down the road, but that moment of relief and shared understanding will stay with me forever.

I’ve worked under a variety of leaders and the one quality that I have valued most is kindness. It sounds so simple, but from an employee’s perspective, to know that you’re cared for can go such a long way. Whether it’s going out of your way to make an employee feel valued, offering a water bottle to the mailman, or paying to fix a member of the janitorial staff’s car tire, small gestures add up and do not go unnoticed by a team.

As an entrepreneur or person in a leadership role, it’s inevitable that some days you’ll have to play the “bad cop.” If a teammate is underperforming or made a critical error, it’s your job to correct these issues to protect your company culture. One way to balance these more challenging moments is by practicing kindness at every opportunity and demonstrating empathy when outside circumstances might be a factor.

“As leaders, we have to know that if we have healthy people working for us, we're going to have a healthy work environment. And so, really cultivating this practice of self-love, and self-care, and community, and relationships, and people supporting one another so that when something does happen, it's not this shock, and elephant in the room that no one talks about. But it's like, ‘Hey, how are you doing today? What's going on today in your life? How are you feeling?’ Because that's going to change from day to day. And, just checking in with people and letting them know that you care, I think is really, really important.” - Ashley Jones, Love Not Lost

While it was a long time ago that my boss let me travel to support my family through a tough loss, as I look back on my time working with her, I don’t immediately recall the moments she corrected me or the times we didn't see eye to eye. Instead I remember the unwavering kindness that she showed me during a vulnerable moment in my life and that, I believe, is something that all leaders can learn from.

Story By: Sophie Duncan