“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.”― Al Capone.

What has kindness got to do with business and HR?

Are you familiar with this quote, and if so were you aware of its origin – from Al Capone no less? I didn’t, I did know that it existed but I only knew of the first part, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness…..”. Now I know it’s from Al Capone I see it in a different light (with more of an imposing, intimidating meaning to it).

I’ve always considered myself to be kind and not weak, and when I ever felt that people did “…mistake my kindness for weakness” I tried to separate it from what I was feeling – to try to understand why this person perceived my approach as a “weakness” – not that this was my concern or my business, it was the other persons. (“What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.” Martha Graham)

It was with one of my previous employers where I learnt that you can be kind and  it would not be perceived as a weakness, where ‘it’ wasn’t about personal ego, it was about parking the “ego” and focusing on achieving the business objective. Sometimes this was hard to rise above. Further it was about “ownership”, “accountability” “not being a victim”, “not blaming”,  “being responsible for what happens within your four walls” of your business  or “speaking to the person who could make a difference” rather than talking, complaining (gossiping) to others.

Being kind did not mean being soft, it meant being assertive and to “mean what you say but don’t be mean about it”

Since my time with this top 100 Fortune Company (USA) and Top 100 Best Company to work for (UK), I’ve still aimed to practice this. At times I have bitten my tongue but in the long run it has worked and contributed to my success.

I have also been conscious that others in the workplace were not able to relate to this and I would often coach my team to be kind and I didn’t mean “kill them with kindness” that is to frustrate them, more of “behaviour breeds behaviour”

So, why is this relevant to SMEs? My point is my former employers (founded by one of the USA’s most admired and prominent retail business women who left her role as president to set up this innovative retail business that other adults thought would never work) she had a philosophy she believed wholeheartedly – that if we treat people the way our “toys” taught us, the world would be a better place to be.  AND guess what – it works in the work place …..It also helps the business objectives and that return on investment that SME owners are paying in time and money. By listening to your employees and understanding and accepting that they too have a vested interest in the success of your business.

Give kindness a try with your team, be the leader the coach and teach and see how effectively that works, getting you the results you want.

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