managemnet company strategy managemanet The Simple Power of Communicating with Kindness

The Simple Power of Communicating with Kindness

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I believe that in every interpersonal communication, leaders should err on the side of kindness. This statement may seem simple but it takes courage to live – especially now.

We live in a world where many issues are eating away at our connections with one another. Don’t focus: When was the last time you had a conversation without one of the people involved checking their phone or multitasking? Or speed: We run from one thing to the next without reflecting on the human implications of what we do.

But the challenge becomes more difficult when you consider that people may not want to be kind. Among people who feel strongly about a particular social or political issue, only 30% of people said they would help someone with a different view most recently. Edelman Trust Barometer survey. As a result of political polarization, everything becomes a political statement (think about masking the exit of the pandemic). Perhaps as a result of these factors, the average is poor WIDESPREAD at work.

From my four decades of working in government, business, and politics — in communications at the highest corporate levels, now as executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at Pfizer — I’ve found that great leadership is about connecting. to people by making them feel seen and heard. That means standing against all these trends and impulses and instead practicing what I call “good communication.”

This article is one in a series on “Creative Resilience: Leading in an Age of Loss,” the theme of the 15th annual Global Peter Drucker Forum. View the conference program HERE.

It includes small gestures and a general behavior that allows for connection. For a senior leader – as well as any aspiring leader – this type of communication is important in everyday interactions as well as in big, difficult conversations. You will find yourself enjoying stronger relationships and a respected leadership presence, as well as increased creativity, resilience, and, ultimately, stronger leadership.

Here are three ways to do it.

Break down the defensive with grace.

Walking into an acrimonious situation is when I am at my best.

When I’m going into a difficult environment like a Senate hearing, or when I’m being cross-examined by an opposing attorney, I always start by saying, “Thank you very much for inviting me here today.” I’m smiling when I say this, and I mean it. It shows that I am here to listen and contribute, not to throw stones at anyone. And that’s disarming: It lightens the mood and opens the ears. At the same time, it takes courage and shows your maturity. That allows for more creative, productive problem solving.

To be clear, I am not saying that there is no place to show anger towards someone. If they hurt you or your family, for example, anger is the appropriate response. But it is not the most effective tool for opening minds and moving hearts. Anger can hold another person back; kindness opens them up.

And, as a leader, others are always watching your communications, and if you are known to be someone who blows, you will be isolated from important negative news. An angry or impulsive organizational culture makes people less productive SPEAK about important risks or problems. That makes your organization less able to respond quickly to crises.

Give credit where credit is due.

People like to be seen and appreciated. Recognizing those who deserve it produces motivation, hard work, confidence, and loyalty. I remember the thank-you cards I received from my bosses years ago and I’ve been practicing writing them for my team and giving them opportunities for recognition ever since.

Practicing gratitude also encourages my creativity: Reflecting on my interaction with someone after the fact often sparks an idea for another moment with them, or another way to continue the conversation. It helps me slow down long enough to let the ideas come out.

Giving recognition is as powerful for your peers as it is for those you lead. I sit on an executive committee and every time I see someone in the group being recognized (a scientist who won a prestigious award, or someone who created a new safety standard) , I will circulate it to the rest of the group. I do this because I admire the people I work with, and honestly believe what I say. But I also believe that it makes me, the credit giver, look good too: It communicates that I have the maturity and self-confidence to appreciate others.

This is a strange move because credit acquisition is the big thing in the corporate world these days. Consider the understatement: the trend where a person laments how many horrible nights they stayed up late to finish an important project (the point for the audience is how important the project is and how much their role in it). Or posting on social media how blessed or humbled they are to have achieved a big promotion. It is endless and disgusting, because the need to claim credit for everything is harmful and counterproductive in the end.

The urge to claim recognition becomes even stronger when someone takes credit for your idea or your work. But before you jump in to set the record straight, think twice. People are observant; they can always see who is doing the work. Remaining silent at that moment, instead of rushing to say “No, I done!” shows a lot about how confident you feel about yourself and can open the door for a connection with another person.

During the pandemic, for example, my boss and I started an idea with other big pharmaceutical companies to make a pledge that we all follow some high safety standards and avoid cutting corners. in our race for a vaccine. You can imagine my surprise when, at a conference in 2022, I heard someone from one of the other companies claiming credit. The hairs rose on the back of my neck, my hands tingled, and for a moment I considered ending the conversation and angrily resigning and straightening up. But it was not done. I realized that if I had claimed my due credit, I would have purposefully humiliated the other in public, and I would have questioned the whole idea that we were all good fellows. I could have looked worse, and it cost me nothing to keep quiet.

Of course, there are situations where you need to raise your hand and take a bow, such as when you lead a team that achieves a goal (in that case, say “we”) or when the reputation of your company at risk. In the end, giving credit to others can be more powerful for you than getting it.

Give the other party space and explanation.

No matter how much you want to have a conversation with someone, don’t catch them off guard or at their game. Whether it’s a harmless quick question or a serious piece of bad news, always ask if it’s a good time and try to give them a sense of what you want to talk about.

This gives your partner a chance to prepare themselves for any surprises or difficult news you have to share, and makes it clear that you’re interested in hearing their response. It also calms them down – from not knowing what to expect to understanding the lay of the land. It gives them a roadmap for your ramble.

It can be as simple as reaching out to a colleague and saying “Is now a good time to talk about our fall campaign?” (instead of just FaceTiming them at odd hours, which I used to do). It may provide some emotional context for the news that can be understood in different ways.

For big issues this may require a little more preparation: I had something important to tell my boss about last week. I told him, “I’d really appreciate it if we could find a few minutes off-site to discuss this issue I’m talking about with my team,” and sent him some slides to let him know what it was. and knew to find me when he had 15 minutes, not two.

You don’t always have time to prepare, but there are ways to give the other person space. If the need to push back on something or deliver bad news comes up during a conversation, you can say “Let’s stop there” and be blunt. But if it’s a group situation, if possible, wait until the meeting is over and then call them back. Let’s say they say something hurtful. Call them and say, “Maybe you don’t know how that landed,” and talk it out from there. Embarrassing people in public is not a good idea, but trying to educate others in private is a good idea.

Whatever tactics you choose, the idea is not to burden the other person in your conversation, and instead focus outward – on the other person, not on yourself. As difficult as that may be, especially in today’s polarized and fast-paced world, it pays big dividends in your relationships, your leadership, and your own well-being.

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