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Kindness means Business

The Business of Being Kind

Like most everyone, I’ve received a lot of advice over the years, coming from a variety of sources and spanning the spectrum between incredibly useful and incredibly useless.  Furthermore, and not to get too technical here, but all the advice I’ve received lines up on a bell-shaped curve, which is slightly skewed toward the “bad” advice end, with only a few good solid pieces sticking out as outliers over on the “good” side.  Some time ago, I came across some really great advice from one of my supervisors where I currently work and I only recently began integrating that advice into my life.  Furthermore, the advice is so simple, so easy to implement and yet so important to my current situation and future aspirations that I am kicking myself for not realizing and taking to heart that advice sooner.

So what is this magical piece of advice?  Be kind.

Just two words, but two words that have so much impact and so much meaning if utilized to the extent that they are meant to be.   Being kind means having compassion and consideration for other people and things.  Being kind means empathy, not apathy.  Being kind is so easy to do if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and reflect on their experiences the best you can.  Finally, and here’s where the lesson comes in, being kind is extremely beneficial in the workplace.

Don’t believe me?  Well we all know you might despise Craig from the marketing department or that you think your boss Jeff is a moron, but research from a variety of universities shows that a workplace culture that stresses kindness and forgiveness translates into higher productivity, higher self-worth and confidence, and a better-perceived image of management.  This type of research comes to fruition and bubbles to the top through conferences like those held at Stanford University (https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/psychology-kindness-workplace) which held a “Compassion and Business” conference back in 2013, bringing together the best of psychology and business to stress the need for kindness in the office environment.  It’s fantastic when businesses and universities can conduct and support this type of research and share their results for the benefit of so many people.

What is even more fantastic is that I think my company has a terrific culture centered on kindness toward employees and other stakeholders.  As an employee, my supervisors take great care to make sure I’m doing work that I like, that I get the necessary time off I need to take care of my other commitments, and that I’m happy too.  That level of care translates to more productivity on my part, in addition to a higher overall level of happiness.

Moreover, being kind has implications for what I hope to accomplish and how I hope to behave in the future.  As a hospitality professional, being kind and considerate to all guests is paramount to guest satisfaction and repeat business.  As I wrote in my last post, one of the ways to add hospitality to your own life is to be kind and considerate, and that goes for employees of hospitality organizations in addition to the everyday person.  My kindness in every guest interaction is so important, so reflective of my own personality and the culture of whatever company I represent, that it should take on more meaning in organizational culture that I believe it currently does.  For many organizations, the emphasis on kindness and the guest experience is there, demonstrated most beautifully when I worked for Marriott International.  For other organizations, the emphasis is not there and I think we’ve all worked for one organization or another that has that lack of focus on kindness.

Unfortunately, the lesson in kindness has come too late in my life to rectify mistakes I have made, some quite recently.  The good news is that orienting oneself towards being kind doesn’t take that much time or effort to do and I’ve begun trying to do just that for myself.

 

Adding Hospitality to Your Own Life

At the current moment, I’m not feeling my emotional best.  When I’m down, however, it helps to retreat to the comfort of something I am passionate about and for me that passion is hospitality.  Even though I’m sad, hospitality is a way of living that can make me feel better.  By treating other people with respect, with warmth, and with care, you can create for yourself hope of happiness by doing something good.  I hope I can spread some goodness even when I’m not feeling the greatest.  Enjoy:

What do I mean by adding “hospitality” to your life?  If we take the straight definition of hospitality, as the relationship between host and guest, where the host welcomes and takes care of the guests needs, my title doesn’t really make sense.  But in my experience, one can do more than simply exhibit hospitality: one can live it, cultivate it, and spread its message to those who don’t yet practice good hospitality.

Moreover, hospitality in this day and age is not only exhibited in formal institutions of customer service like hotels and restaurants.  When I say you should add hospitality to your own life, I am referring to what characterizes the host-guest relationship.  If you’re the host, you should be kind to everyone and respectful of other people’s needs in addition to being proactive in all of your responsibilities.  As the guest, you should have manners toward and consideration for others’ thoughts, feelings, and actions when it may be hard to do.  At its best, hospitality is utilized to understand the characterization of both the host and the guest, synthesizing the two into a balanced representation of what you hope to present to the world.

Now that may be a lot of fanciful language but let me offer two concrete suggestions on adding hospitality to your life with examples: go out of your way to show you’re thinking about someone and the famous line from Arron Burr in “Hamilton”, “Talk less, smile more.”  The first suggestion doesn’t need much explanation; if you go out of your way to show kindness, appreciation, or thanks toward someone, you will be playing the perfect host and your guests will love you for it.  The situation happened to me a few times in the last several months where some really good friends forwarded me articles that not only had to do with my interests in hospitality, but had really insightful outlooks for the future of the industry.  My best friend sent me an interesting article about recognizing gender differences and how these translate to addressing people in the 21st century , and another very good friend sent me a couple of articles on how Airbnb is impacting the hotel industry.  The way these two individuals took time out of their day to think of me and actually do something is beyond touching and not only makes me want to return the favor but also pay it forward.  The simple act of caring and acting on that caring feeling can make a world of difference in the world of hospitality.

Now my second suggestion will need a little more explanation, especially on how it pertains to the hospitality industry.  If you’ve read one of my last blogs, you know that I am very familiar with “Hamilton…An American Musical” and one of Arron Burr’s repeated lines throughout the show is “Talk less, smile more” which is to mean that one should keep his thoughts to himself and erect a facade to cover one’s true intentions; cue the smile.  For Burr, that strategy worked well throughout his life where he transitioned from successful lawyer, to New York Senator, to Vice President of the United States very methodically.  However, if we are to glean anything from this phrase, we need a modern approach.

The reason I chose this phrase is because I have been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to utilize an alternative version of it.  Rather than concealing bad intentions with a smile, I want to listen and understand people, which requires less talking and more listening, and then respond with a positive attitude.  The art of listening is something I struggle with and as a hospitality professional, listening to your guests and keeping a positive attitude no matter their problems or complaints is of paramount importance.  So rather than political gain, my goal for talking less and smiling more is to understand more and support that understanding with good vibes.

I believe anyone can and everyone should become a hospitality professional in some way and incorporating a few key behaviors into how one lives life is the first step on the way to becoming one.  As for me, I still have much to learn (or actually remember) about hospitality but it’s the journey that’s the exciting part.