The Kind Leader Survey

Can you please help me with my research for The Kind Leader book?

I’m looking for input from you to help me understand people’s understanding and experience of kind – and unkind – leadership!

If you would like to help and be included in my upcoming book, please download the survey, fill it out, and email it back to me at karyn@karynrossconsulting.com

Thank you for your help!

And please feel free to pass this along to others you know as well!

The Kind Leader Newsletter #7

Welcome to The Kind Leader Newsletter #7!

Tip #7: Ask about others!

Leaders, I have a challenge for you! Please take out a piece of paper, and for each one of your team members, write down one thing that they are passionate about outside of work, and one thing each of them is struggling with. If you find that you don’t know, don’t be surprised. Often, leaders focus solely on business in conversations and meetings and forget to actually get to know the people who work for them as … well … people! There’s an easy fix for that though! Start out each conversation and business meeting by first asking a specific question about the other person, such as “I know your son had COVID. How is he doing?”

As a leader, it’s easy to become so hyper-focused on targets, metrics and whether the organization is meeting its goals, that you forget the people who work for you are human beings. With family, friends, passions, struggles and challenges outside of the organization. Starting out conversations and meetings with specific questions about people’s lives shows that you care about people not simply for what value they bring to the organization, but because they are valued and valuable human beings.

What do you think?

What do you know about the struggles and challenges your team members are going through?

How often do you ask about others’ lives outside of work?

Please share your ideas in the comments!

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This week’s Kind Leader research focuses on defining kindness, compassion and empathy!

As we discussed in The Kind Leader Newsletter #5, Emotional Intelligence is as important for leaders as business acumen! This week, we’re going to dive a little deeper into the difference between empathy (part of Emotional Intelligence), compassion and kindness, and how practicing kindness can help leaders become more empathetic and compassionate.

Empathy: Empathy, like compassion, is based in feelings. For most of us, the easiest explanation of empathy is the effort to understand someone else’s experience by thinking about what it would be like to be in their place and to feel like they are feeling.

Compassion: Compassion takes empathy to another level of feeling. As Hope Arnold, LCSW, MA states: “Compassion is characterized by the qualities of sympathy, empathy, and concern. It emphasizes nonjudgmental thinking toward self and others, validation, distress tolerance, and acceptance of what is occurring. Compassion is oriented toward healing, alleviating suffering and acknowledging that all humans suffer.” (https://blogs.psychcentral.com/radical-hope/2020/06/the-difference-between-kindness-and-compassion/)

Kindness: Kindness is active. It’s not just a feeling, but a way of thinking, speaking and acting towards others, and yourself. By thinking, speaking and acting kindly, we improve both our ability to be kind…and to feel empathy and compassion, through our actions towards others and ourselves. Because ‘doing changes thinking’, acting kindly is a great way to help you, as a leader, develop empathy and compassion towards those who work for you.

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Thank you all for reading the Kind Leader Newsletter! Please send me your thoughts and experiences practicing kind leadership so I can use them in The Kind Leader book and pass them on to others in the Newsletter!

The Kind Leader Newsletter #6

Welcome to The Kind Leader Newsletter #6

Tip #6: Apologize!

A number of years ago I was one of the of the co-leads for an important inter-departmental project. The sponsor, a Vice President, explained the importance of the project and we got to work. Unfortunately, work didn’t go smoothly and there was a lot of arguing among the team-members. The sponsor called us into his office. We all expected to get in trouble. However, instead of blaming the team for the difficulties, the sponsor apologized, saying “I wasn’t clear enough in the directions I gave you. I see that lack of clarity has caused a lot of friction for the team. I’m sorry.” It was one of the most impactful experiences I ever had as a team member.

As a leader, apologizing shows others that it is alright to make mistakes. And to apologize too! No one is perfect. And no one needs to be. Everyone — including leaders — make mistakes. And the best, and kindest, thing a leader can do when they make a mistake is model the behavior of apologizing. That’s the best way for others to learn how to apologize for their mistakes as well!

What do you think?

How often do you apologize?

How do you help your team members feel safe apologizing?

Please share your ideas in the comments!


This week’s Kind Leader tip was inspired by Matthew Grant

The other day I was talking to my friend Matthew Grant. Matthew is a very reflective person, and a kind leader. As soon as we got on the phone, Matthew asked, “Guess what I did today? I apologized to one of my employees. I realized that they couldn’t complete their work because I wasn’t clear about what I expected them to do. So, I apologized…and then made sure they were clear about what needed to be done!” As Matthew and I talked more about the importance of leaders apologizing when they make mistakes, Matthew said, “The best thing about apologizing is that it clears the air, and then you can simply start again.”

I agree! And, as well, it models kind behavior for team members too!

Thanks for inspiring this week’s Kind Leader Tip, Matthew! (You’ll learn more about Matthew and his quest to practice kind leadership throughout The Kind Leader book!)


Thank you all for reading the Kind Leader Newsletter! Please send me your thoughts and experiences practicing kind leadership so I can use them in The Kind Leader book and pass them on to others in the Newsletter!


The Kind Leader Newsletter #5

As a leader, how often do you catch yourself thinking something like: “The weekly productivity report is late again! No matter how many times I say I NEED that report first thing Monday morning, they never get it to me on time. They never get anything right. I just don’t know what’s wrong with them.” Maybe you have those types of thoughts so often that you don’t even notice them anymore! They just play like unconscious broken records in your head. If that’s the case, you aren’t alone. A lot of the self-talk people have is both negative…and unconscious. And that’s a problem for leaders because your thoughts affect your words and your actions.

As a leader, assuming positive intent, thinking kindly about the actions of others, is unbelievably important. First, because your thoughts influence your words and actions, thinking kindly helps ensure that you speak and act kindly to the people that you are leading! Second, it models the practice of assuming positive intent to others. Because, for the most part, people do have positive intentions. When they don’t do what you expect, there’s usually a good reason why. And something that as a leader, you can kindly help them with.

What do you think?

Do you assume positive intent?

What do you do when you have negative thoughts?

Please share your ideas in the comments!

This week’s Kind Leader book research update:

Assuming positive intent and thinking kindly about others is related to the Emotional Intelligence component of empathy. As Daniel Goleman explains “Empathy means thoughtfully considering employees feelings — along with other factors — in the process of making intelligent decisions” (p.16). Assuming positive intent — that others want and intend to do their best — is a great way to begin making decisions that consider others kindly, and it’s also a great way to begin practicing empathy. For, as we discussed in The Kind Leader Newsletter #3, and Daniel Goleman corroborates, kindness, empathy and the other components of Emotional Intelligence (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and social skill) can be improved with practice.

So, next time you hear that voice in your head saying, “Oh no, that report is late again! Why can’t they EVER get it right?” Stop, and say to yourself instead, “I’m going to assume positive intent. People want to do their best.” Then go and see what happened, and how you can kindly help!

Goleman, D. (1996). What Makes a Leader. In On Leadership (pp. 3 -21). Harvard Business Review Press. 2011.

Thank you all for reading the Kind Leader Newsletter! Please send me your thoughts and experiences practicing kind leadership so I can use them in The Kind Leader book and pass them on to others in The Newsletter!

You are NOT your Bank Account!

Yesterday a friend posted a great comment about changing her thinking about why she was not her bank account – that who she was – and her ‘worth’ – weren’t determined by money, on my post about why you are not your job! I’ve been thinking about this for a while due to a conversation I had with someone about course pricing: “If you price your course too low, people won’t be interested because they think won’t think it will be ‘valuable’. More expensive things are perceived to be better.” For me, this goes right along with Dorsey’s comment: that the perception of ‘more money means more valuable’. You may think the more money you have, or charge, the more valuable you are. But that’s not the case. Because people are never dollars. And what you can truly contribute can’t – and doesn’t need to be – measured in money. As a whole person you contribute kindness and caring, love and ideas. You offer empathy, compassion, comfort and creative solutions to problems at home and in the world. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your bank account to contribute those things. Everyone can do an act of kindness, everyone can lend a hand. Your true value as a person isn’t measured in dollars, but in humanity.

You are NOT your JOB!

I’ve written about this topic before and I’m writing about it again because over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to so many people who feel badly about who they are as a person because of something happening at work. So, if you are feeling badly about yourself because you’ve lost your job, worry that you are in danger of losing it, or because of how you are being treated, please stop. And say to yourself: I AM NOT MY JOB. A job, no matter what it is, is something you do. It’s isn’t YOU. You are a whole person with an entire life filled with people you help and who care about you and love you. You are a person with passions, interests and ideas whose contributions improve the life of your family, community and the world. Even if those contributions seem small to you, they are huge to others. You are so much more than your job. There are many jobs in the world, but there is only one YOU! So, here’s what I’d like you to do. if you are feeling badly about yourself because of your job, take a sticky note or piece of paper, write I’M NOT MY JOB and post it where you can easily see it. As a reminder to yourself and all those around you that no matter how you feel about it, a job is just a job, and you, as the fabulous whole person you are, are so much more!

The Kind Leader Newsletter #4

Welcome to The Kind Leader Newsletter #4!

Tip #4: Let others go first. 

As a team member, have you ever been excited to go to your one-on-one meeting with your manager, only to find that fifty-five out of the sixty minutes are taken up by them telling you all about their work instead of listening to you? Even when the stated purpose of the meeting is to hear how you are doing and what YOU want to talk about? As a team member, you probably felt disappointed and that you weren’t treated kindly. Plus, your questions and concerns may not have been addressed.

Those in leadership roles often develop the habit of speaking first. However, letting others speak first gives leaders both the opportunity to hear what people have to say, and also to make them feel cared for and important.

As a leader, letting others go first also applies to situations where people are entering and exiting the room, getting seated and lining up for meals. Although people may defer to your title and usher you to the front of the line, letting others go first role shows the respect that you have for your team members.

Letting others go first doesn’t diminish your leadership, it models caring, respect and kindness.

What do you think?

How often do you let others speak first?

What other situations could you let others go first in?

Please share your ideas in the comments!

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This week’s Kind Leader Tip was inspired by IT Leader Craig Delmage.

Here are some other suggestions from Craig for kind ways to meet with team members:

When I have my regular one on one meetings with my team members, I always let them go first – discuss anything that is on their mind or that they want to discuss with me. It can be business or personal. By letting them go first, it sends a signal that what they have to say is important to me. I may prompt them with some initial open-ended questions such as “How are things going for you?” or “How is your new baby?” or “Are you managing work/life balance ok?”

At the end of their items I will check in with them with questions such as “Have I made any decisions lately that you have disagreed with?” to make sure that we are in synch.

If there is time left in our meeting, then I may bring up any items that I wish to cover. Overall, I find that this approach works very well, and I have become closer to my team members – both on a work and personal front – as a result.

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Thanks, Craig, for sending your Kind Leader tip!

And thank you all for reading the Kind Leader Newsletter! Please send me your thoughts and experiences practicing kind leadership so I can use them in The Kind Leader book and pass them on to others in the Newsletter!

The Kind Leader Newsletter #3

Welcome to The Kind Leader Newsletter #3!

Tip #3: Find something to compliment in each person’s work.  

Twice last week, someone sent me something they had written to review. “Poke holes in it”, they said. “I want you to tell me what could be improved!” After reading both documents, here’s what I replied: “Your document looks great! Well thought out and written. Why don’t you just go ahead and send it out?!” A short while later, I received a version of the same, surprised response from both people: “Wow’” they said. “It’s been a long time since someone’s complimented my work! I’m so used to negative feedback I didn’t remember how great it feels to get a compliment!”

As a leader, it’s easy to forget how much weight your words carry. And what a huge difference your kind words and compliments mean to people.

So, even if the work your team member has done isn’t exactly as you imagined it, make sure you take time to actively and genuinely find something to compliment in it. If you aren’t used to doing this, you will find that it takes time, and practice. You’ll need to slow down and think about your team member’s effort and feelings first. And, if the work really misses the mark, you’ll have to ask yourself why, and how you can help them do better next time.  

As a leader, please remember, your words stay in people’s minds and hearts for a long time. Please make sure they are kind ones.

What do you think? What do you do?

How often do you compliment your team members’ work?

How can you practice responding kindly, even if the result isn’t exactly what you expected?

Please share your ideas in the comments!

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This week’s Kind Leader research update

Like anything else we want to get better at, being a Kind Leader takes practice. And that’s not just my opinion, it’s science. In her article “Kindness and Brain: What is the Impact of Kindness in Brain Functioning” Daniela Silva shares that every kind act changes the brain in a number of ways including:

  • Increasing the production of ‘feel-good’ hormones dopamine and oxytocin in the brain of both the person who acts with kindness and the person who receives it
  • Activating the ‘reward’ system of the brain to produce feelings of happiness and satisfaction in both the person acting kindly and the person receiving the kindness
  • Changing the functioning of the prefrontal cortex to increase the number of neural connections allowing neural pathways and habits of kindness to form

So, the best way to start being a Kind Leader, is actually to start! And then to deliberately practice acting kindly on a regular basis. Finding something to genuinely compliment in each team member’s work is a great place to start your practice! It may feel strange at first, but, as science tells us, it will soon become a habit!

Daniela Silva. “Kindness and Brain: What is the Impact of Kindness in Brain Functioning”. EC Neurology 5.4 (2017): 146-148.

That’s this week’s Kind Leader newsletter!

Look forward to seeing you next week!

The Learning is in The Journey

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting lately. Even more than normal for me. With my son having been so sick with COVID, social unrest surrounding systemic racism and the pandemic, stress upcoming US election and Friday’s death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So many of the people that I’ve spoken with are wrestling with all types of feelings. And that’s normal and okay. It’s a tough time for everyone. So I’m drawing and writing. What I do to process, reflect and relax. This is what came out today. Because in tough times it’s easy to get stuck in negative emotions, thoughts and actions. Towards ourselves and others. But although we can’t choose many of the experiences our life and world circumstances put us in, ultimately, through reflection and practice we can choose how to deal with them, feel about them, and act towards others and ourselves. So today, take some time, reflect on how you’re feeling accept those feelings, whatever they are, and work towards where you’d like them to be. The learning is in the journey, so be kind to yourself and others as we go through it!

The Kind Leader Newsletter #2

Welcome to The Kind Leader Newsletter #2!

Tip #2: Give people your undivided attention.  

As a leader, you’re probably pretty busy. It can be tempting to multi-task by checking your phone or computer while talking with people. Especially if you feel like the person is ‘taking too long to get to the point’ or if you think you have more important things to do. However, constantly looking down at your phone, your computer or smartwatch isn’t a kind way to act. Constantly checking electronics and looking away makes people feel like what they are saying, and who they are, is unimportant.

So, whether you are talking with someone one-on-one, or you’re in a meeting, please make sure to give people your full and undivided attention.

Make eye contact, lean forward into the conversation, put your phone away and shut off your computer. Even if you think that what the person is telling you isn’t most important to you. Because chances are, what they’re telling you is most important to them.

As a leader, one of the kindest ways to show people how important they are is to give them your full and undivided attention.

That’s this week’s Kind Leader newsletter!

What do you think…

How often do you check your devices while someone is talking to you or in meetings?

What can you do to remind yourself not to look at your phone, computer or watch ?

Please share your ideas in the comments!

Karyn Ross Consulting

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