What Entrepreneurship Teaches You About Kindness
Tis the season for kindness and we're so glad we get to share it with you. As we look back on this year of business, we're thankful for all the ways it has changed all of us for the better. Working in and for the creative entrepreneurship community has taught us so much and constantly pushes all of us to be our best selves, in and out of business. We're continuing to reflect on kindness in business during this holiday season and some of the ways we see that all around us!
What is the old adage?
“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
I can think of a few shoes everyone should be obligated to walk in: Retail worker. Restaurant server. There are few things as enlightening as being on the receiving end of an angry phone call or customer regarding a policy your massive corporation just enacted that you have no say in.
If that sounds oddly specific, well it should. If my time as an Executive Team Leader with Target taught me anything, it’s that people can easily forget that there is a human on the other side of every interaction. Specific instances aside, people with, thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and feelings may line up perfectly with their own, if only they would put aside their anger for a moment. When we are upset, empathy is the first thing to go. Thus, we lose any potential for meaningful, human connection and understanding.
We’ve all been angry. We’ve all been short with our barista. We’ve all been visibly frustrated with customer service. We’ve all sent an angry email or chat to the faceless company that has inconvenienced us. Once you’ve walked in any of those shoes, it’s hard to forget how receiving that anger made you feel.
At this moment, we the creative entrepreneurs, are walking in a very important set of shoes. We provide the services and products people all over the world are counting on. We are now on the other side of where we’ve been for so long. We have people counting on us to provide for them the goods and services they so desperately need.
And gosh are we all trying our very best.
I know you are, why wouldn’t you be? You probably don’t remember what a weekend is. Your “hours” are impossible to measure. You go above and beyond to be the best you can be because that’s what entrepreneurship demands of you. It’s what those counting on you expect. So you do the best you can and sometimes it seems like it isn’t enough. How?
It’s in that question, that you may remember that barista or customer service rep you were difficult with all those years ago. I know I do. It’s there that you realize how much entrepreneurship has changed you, for the better. Let’s talk why.
1. What the other side is like.
When you’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes at customer service, only to be met with lack of immediate understanding or resolution, there’s very little urging you to demonstrate kindness. We can immediately choose to believe that they don't have our best interests in mind. That they aren't working towards the same end goal.
Next thing you know, you’ve launched your own business and you have a few inquiries sitting in your inbox. You’re working through as best you can but the load keeps piling up, until someone loses patience. You respond calmly and kindly but it doesn’t help the situation. You are officially in that employee’s shoes.
Once you’ve experienced this, your capacity for kindness and patience has been forever altered. You understand how more often than not, people are genuinely doing all they can to help. Once there, it’s like you’ve joined this important fellowship: a fellowship of people who know better than to assume the worst in each other.
Today, if I’m faced with a minor inconvenience, I expect better of myself, because I know better. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt or the courtesy of a little extra patience, no longer seems like a chore. Likewise, if I'm working with someone who I can't seem to satisfy, I'm more inclined to respond in patience and trust. It's a circle we all have the power to contribute meaningfully to.
It helps you to trust that people are doing what they can for you. If they aren’t that’s for them to figure out, but all we can do is trust.
2. why to prioritize it as you grow
As you scale, you’ll be getting a better sense of what defines your business. You’ll have a better picture of what it looks like to be a part of your team, if you’re trying to grow that way. You’ll look for specific skill sets, opportunities and qualities that will contribute to what you are doing.
But you’ll also look to prioritize adding kindness.
You can flesh out certain qualities in someone’s work, sure or mentor them in ways you’d like to see them develop. And while kindness can be taught, it’s most effectively nurtured from a young age. If you think about it, regardless of what service or product you’re providing anyone, the most interaction you’ll have with them is from a simple conversational standpoint. In that place, more than your skills or talents, your kindness has the most potential for impact.
There is no greater value than when from top to bottom, you have a team that defaults to kindness. That way, you know your brand and what you’ve worked so hard to build is protected.
3. how Communication changes
On the topic of how we interact with our clients, communication is so vital. Similar to the way it was often so easy to react with visible irritation, frustration or anger, our verbal communication is an easy way to take the kindness road.
In this economy of business, almost all of our communication is handled via email or chat. Because of that, it’s easier than ever to drop the effort to sound intentional in how we communicate.
I would say a majority of our communication is handled via text, chat or dm! Short, to-the-point transcripts, often with people we are familiar with. That removes the necessity for any real elaboration or effort. So what happens when we begin communicating with clients via the same tools? When we’ve become so comfortable with our concise, effortless communicating, it can be difficult to assume that anything more is necessary.
Which is why communication is SO important. It’s an easy one to take for granted, but an easy avenue to go way beyond expectations with kindness. This goes for both sides of a conversation.
How do you inquire or alert those who are serving you to potential problems you’re facing? Are you quick to assume? Slow to patience? Frustrated before the answer is given? Likewise, when someone you're working for reaches out with questions or concerns, are you easily annoyed? Do you let any confusion on their end limit your capacity to help? Do let the time being taken from other tasks translate in how you respond?
4. How to be open to feedback
Even with a posture of kindness and even if we are communicating kindness, breakdowns and setbacks will occur. That’s a healthy realization and grace we all need to have for ourselves. That way, when that time or instance does come, we aren’t caught off guard. We aren’t stuck in a mentality of perfection, making reacting to legitimate feedback impossible
We’ve hit more than a few bumps on the road since launching Dubsado. Though we believe that if you aren’t hitting bumps, you aren’t taking enough risks, sometimes we all just mess up! When that happens, you can choose to plant yourself in indignation and belief in your ways, or you can respond with openness. I can tell you that one leads to meaningful resolution much faster than the other. One makes it easier to train yourself to react with openness as the scope of your failures grow with your business. It’s so difficult in the moment, but in the long run, the payoff is immeasurable.
Listen to what people have to say when you start. Listen to what people have to say when you’re growing. Listen to what people have to say when you think you’ve arrived.
Of course, we aren’t advocating letting everyone’s opinions change you! We’re entrepreneurs! We are where we are because we are risk takers and mavericks! There is a degree of “maverick” that’s good to stick to! But heed counsel when it’s trustworthy. Be open and empathetic in thought.
We're thankful for this community of do-gooders and kindness seekers and for all the ways we see you living out these ideas! We wish you the very best as you fill those holiday orders and prep your businesses for the new year!