The Importance of Kindness

I had an important job interview Monday. A job interview that will most likely be the difference between moving up this year or waiting 4 years for another opening to become available. Although I am confident in who I am and what I bring to the table in my career, it would be insane not to feel nervous faced with such a lengthy potential wait.

I brainstormed skills and accomplishments I wanted to work into my answers at the interview. I picked out a power suit. I even did my hair and smeared some mascara on. And then it was time.


And now it's done. It went okay. I don't think I knocked it out of the park but at least I didn't sit there mute and sweating profusely. I'd score myself a B-. Thankfully, I have a strong resume and writing sample to go with it. I'm also hoping my reputation brings some boys to the yard. We'll see.

Reflecting on the interview later, the thing I'm proud of was my answer to the question asking me to provide three words to describe myself. Bear in mind this is in an interview setting. Because all bets are off in a non interview setting.   But in the interview setting, the three words that popped out of my mouth were bright, optimistic and kind. When I tell people this, they tend to look confused when I get to "kind."  Like what on Earth does kind have to do with a job interview for a managerial type leadership position?

Thankfully, during the interview I managed to bring "kind" into perspective by citing an article written by Colin Powell that I read several months ago in Parade magazine (I know! I'm so high brow in my reading! Don't be jealous!). He wrote about the importance of kindness in leadership recounting that parking attendants at the White House confessed to him that they parked cars based on how nice people were entering the garage. No acknowledgment of the attendants got your car boxed in nice and tight so you'd get to wait at the end of the day. Friendly and maybe even knowing the attendant's name got you prime real estate with no wait at the end of the day.

He expanded that out idea out to a theory that building a reputation for kindness and empathy made employees more likely to accept difficult decisions because they'd know that you wouldn't make a decision arbitrarily or without regard to people. And because they know that, they'd know that the decision must have been the right and only decision that could be made.  And knowing that they'd be more likely to accept the decision even though they didn't like the decision or necessarily agree with it. 

His words resonated with me.  More than any article I've ever read.  I even ripped it out and hung it on the wall next to my desk raggedy torn edge and all.  It articulates better than I ever could what I believe in and  how I carry myself in the office. I'm the girl that knows what grade your kids are in and asks what Santa will be bringing them this year. I'm the girl that greets even the must unfriendly of colleagues with a friendly hello and doesn't let the lack of response stop me from greeting them the exact same way next time. I'm the kind of girl that notices if someone looks tired and asks if you're okay. And it goes without saying that I always have a tissue box on hand in case anyone needs me to play therapist or hold their hand.

I especially love that Colin Powell mentioned that kind doesn't mean weak or being a pushover. Because anyone that knows me will vouch for the fact that I am the polar opposite of a push over. There is a reason my husband bought me a t-shirt that says "El Capitan" and thinks it is the funniest and most accurate t-shirt for me.  Kindness just means that while I'm not letting you push me over, I'm still nice about it and can smile and laugh with you.  Kindness means bad news gets delivered with empathy.  I firmly believe it's not what you say but how you say it. I get away with a lot of brutal honesty directly to people's faces.  I think I get away with it because people know I'm coming from a good place and as a result are less likely to take things the wrong way. 

It didn't occur to me until later that day that most people probably don't go with "kind" in a interview for a leadership position. I'm thinking strong, assertive, strategic and sharp might get mentioned.  I also wondered if I had inadvertently fed into the stereotype of the overly touchy feely type of girl in the workplace.

But then I decided I didn't care about any of that. I decided a long time ago that I'm not going to pretend I'm something that I'm not to get ahead. I also decided that I refuse to suck up or act like a stupid idea is the greatest idea I've ever heard.   If that means I have to wait a little longer to move up, so be it.  I sleep really well at night and I don't have any problem looking people in the eye.  But if I'm slightly out of the norm from everyone else trying to climb the corporate ladder and wandering around in left field, I must admit that I love knowing I'm not alone in left field.  And if you're going to have someone in left field with you, Colin Powell is pretty great company.

1 comment:

Veronica said...

I think that's wonderful and I couldn't agree more. I have always fully believed in "servant leadership." I believe that you should still be a strong and firm leader while at the same time remaining kind and remembering how to serve your people. Well done and good luck!

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