A member of our board of directors recently sent me a New York Times blog post about a commencement speech which encouraged the graduates, above all, to practice kindness. I found its message very appropriate and it got me thinking about how we, as business leaders, play a part in fostering kindness within the organizations those graduates will join.
Can kindness be built as an organizational practice? We believe it can, and it starts with building empathy. When we have empathy, we understand, respect, and value others’ perspective. As leaders, we can cultivate empathy in our organizations by bringing people together in a respectful dialogue to share ideas and solve problems together. One of the ways we do that at Barry-Wehmiller is through our continuous improvement (L3) journey where we bring together cross-functional groups of people to make improvements. You might find a finance professional, an engineer and an HR executive in an event in manufacturing, working alongside machinists to improve the safety, efficiency and productivity of a work cell. The “outside” team members bring a fresh perspective, and tend to ask questions that lead to breakthrough ideas. But most importantly, they walk away with a better understanding of the challenges that their colleagues face in their day to day work… and a greater sense of empathy. Empathy, respecting and valuing others’ perspective, naturally leads to kindness. And a work environment rooted in kindness strengthens the foundation of any business and, above all, impacts the health, wellbeing and overall quality of life of its team members.
Enjoy the post—it’s worth reading.
George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates
By JOEL LOVELL
It’s long past graduation season, but we recently learned that George Saunders delivered the convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013, and George was kind enough to send it our way and allow us to reprint it here. The speech touches on some of the moments in his life and larger themes (in his life and work) that George spoke about in the profile we ran back in January — the need for kindness and all the things working against our actually achieving it, the risk in focusing too much on “success,” the trouble with swimming in a river full of monkey feces.