Strike the right tone: Kindness is Back

03 February 2021

In November 2020, the GLL/Schillings Be Kind Report found its way across the world and in the hands of Jean François, a communications and investigations specialist and co-founder of Switzerland-based Vanda Advisory Ltd. Rachel Atkins caught up with Jean François who has been inspired by the new tone emerging that ‘Kindness is Back’ and shares his thoughts on the positives we are seeing in the world from politics to businesses.

Strike the right tone: Kindness is Back

After an era of discord people are tired of animosity, rancour and quarrels. It’s time we remember the adage, “The highest form of wisdom is kindness”.

In December 2020, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was awarded the Gleitsman International Activist Award, an award granted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. The Harvard Gazette described Jacinda Ardern as being known for “demonstrating that successfully leading a country through a crisis, or even two, doesn’t mean you can’t also be a kind and compassionate person”.

A few days before the “neither brash nor arrogant” Prime Minister was honoured, her counterpart in the United States, Donald Trump, lost the election to Joe Biden.

Whereas President Trump will be remembered for bullying and his aggressive tone and stance towards friends and enemies, orally and on Twitter, the Washington Post wrote about Joe Biden: “What we most need in a leader right now — decency, compassion, perspective — happen to be the very things Biden brings to the table”.

Two events, one message: Kindness, compassion and decency are back on the plate. After an era of discord – think Brexit, Trump, and the refugee crisis in the EU (and on top of that came Corona) – people are simply tired of animosity, rancour and quarrels. They long for kindness and friendliness.

That is certainly true in political communications, as demonstrated by Angela Merkel, for example. She has been widely applauded and cheered in traditional media and on social media for her speech full of empathy and emotion convincing the German people to adhere to strict Covid rules and restrictions, even during Christmas.

Kindness is also well perceived in corporate communications. The fast-food chain Burger King received much praise on social media for promoting its competitors – McDonalds, KFC, and local restaurants – in its own marketing and advertisement campaigns during lockdown. The message: “We are all in the same boat.”

But kindness is not just en vogue, nice-to-have or an intangible boost to reputation. Kindness in politics pays off in that kind politicians are re-elected, such as Jacinda Ardern (once) or Angela Merkel (four times), but not Donald Trump.

Kindness also pays off in business and at the workplace, Schillings’ “Be Kind Report 2020” shows.

In the report Marta Carreira-Slabe, Chief Compliance Officer at AON, is quoted as saying: “Leading by example with kindness, empathy and inclusivity produces productive, high-performing, motivated and engaged teams.” In the same report Huma Allana, Vice President, Legal & Company Secretary at Coca-Cola European Partners, states: “Kindness is the key behaviour that builds trust. “

And trust, as described in a report from PwC, makes employees want to go the extra mile. Trust increases their engagement and, thus, leads to more productivity.

This said, kindness is not only good for your own mental health, but also for team spirit, relationships with clients and, in the end, good for business.

How we like to show kindness

  • Help others succeed: Share content from others (even from your competitors) on your communication channels and credit and tag the original author and/or organisation. Your followers will appreciate the contribution, since they like to consume insightful and interesting posts. Also, in the short run, it might make you known to a new audience if the original author re-shares your content to his followers. In the long run, our experience shows, you get to build new cooperations or get to know new supporters and even clients.
  • Show your appreciation: Think of your employees and/or clients not only on Christmas but also throughout the year. Offer your employees small rewards to say thank you when they do not expect it. Reach out to your employees and clients by phone just to ask how they are doing and see if they need support. Such surprises will let them know you appreciate what they do and, in our experience, result in other reciprocal acts of kindness.
  • Be fair and respectful: When assessing someone else’s point of view in communications or negotiations accept and acknowledge the best arguments of your counterpart as a good journalist does when writing a fair news article. Look at least as much for common ground as for dissent and show that you respect differing standpoints.

Authored by Jean François, Managing Director at Vanda Advisory.

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