Are we really there for each other?
I recently published an article on Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global about altruism, kindness and business.
This topic came about because I noticed several of my guests mention kindness in their advice for breaking through business inertia.
They stressed the importance of doing good and paying it forward, not just as an organization, as we commonly talk about these days, but as an individual. Because when you look around, the reality is that altruism in business really isn’t as common as we’d like to think.
In this episode, I revisit these interviews and explore the valuable points these guests have made, because being kind and helpful is simply good business sense.
So what’s inhibiting people from really putting others first?
The problem: A Focus on “Me” vs. “We”
No matter how many purpose-driven companies come out with plans to improve the world, the business of business will always be cutthroat. To survive, you have to be strategic in who you work with and where you go.
And that can result in behavior that is completely counter to the notion of assisting and supporting others to create a mutual benefit.
My guest from episode 30, John Newtson, co-creator of the Financial Marketing Summit, points out that networking, as an example, is one of the most self-centered activities for business people today – to everyone’s detriment.
John identifies general disinterest, especially when networking with people who you don’t immediately identify as someone who can help you or your business. And we can see people adopting a similar mindset when interacting with people who are within their own organization too.
Then why are we accepting selfishness instead of confronting it?
The Challenge: Fear, Misconceptions and a Rigid Corporate Culture.
As those of us in business see constantly, competition and pressure breed fear and insecurity. When a corporate culture isn’t ‘we-centric’ and the behaviors and actions of those around you are about protecting oneself, it’s easy to understand why people become inwardly focused.
This lookout-for-oneself mentality can impact business leaders of all ages and ranks. And the emotions stemming from this mindset trigger gut responses and actions like bullying, over- criticizing, and micromanaging.
On top of that, there’s the misconception that empowering others takes power away from the individual.
The Solution: Shift in Mindset & Emphasis on Execution.
As Beth Freedman, Managing Director of Gyro, UK, and my guest on Episode 19 learned, putting your team first and making people feel valued is crucial to business success. It’s about letting go of that insecurity because, in the end, kindness and altruism lead to greater upward mobility and gratification than selfishness does.
My guest from episode 25, John Keeling, SVP of Business Development at The Motley Fool, understands this. He’s seen what it’s like when businesses are run by mercenaries who are just using employees as a means to an end versus servant leaders, who take the position that winning for WE is the same as winning for ME.
And John isn’t alone in this way of thinking.
Dan Yu, the founder of the talent agency FastBook Advisors and our guest on episode 23, also emphasizes that kindness and altruism aren’t just niceties that make business more pleasant – they’re tools you can and should employ to run your business and career more strategically.
“It's running your career like a business. If you're looking at your business well what's the revenue – that's your salary, your bonus. And what's your revenue continuity plan?” That’s the way you treat people.
Dr. Phil Zimbardo, renowned Stanford psychologist from episode 18, reminds us that even the smallest things can make others feel special – and in making the choice to do so, we are being an active upstander instead of a bystander; you are choosing to be the one who stands up and take action, which is the kind of behavior that makes an everyday hero.
Being kind also has a palpable psychological benefit, not just in these more dire circumstances but in every circumstance.
Dr. Richard Shuster, our guest on Ep. 28 and host of The Daily Helping podcast, explains that we should always be giving, as biologically we get as much reward out of giving as we do receiving.
Simply put, performing a good deed makes us feel good and more connected with the person we’re helping. We help ourselves by helping others and create a mutual benefit.
What we see is the ideal value exchange. If there is a culture in which everyone is providing value to others, is trying to help others, is actively trying to be an upstander, instead of trying to figure out what they can get for themselves, it again creates a culture of winning for WE instead of winning for ME.
In the end, kindness and altruism lead to greater upward mobility and gratification than selfishness does.
Me-centric cultures come from the top. When a corporate culture isn’t ‘we-centric’ and the behaviors and actions of those around you are about protecting oneself, people become inwardly focused. This lookout-for-oneself mentality can impact business leaders of all ages and ranks.
Empowering others doesn’t take any power away from you – in fact, putting your team first and making people feel valued is crucial to business success.
Servant leaders who take the position that winning for WE is the same as winning for ME create winning teams and cultures. A rising tide lifts all boats: the more we focus on making each other successful, the more successful we all are.
Run your career like a business. What’s your revenue? That’s your salary, your bonus. What’s your revenue continuity plan? That’s the relationships you form with the people you work with.
Making another person feel special or respected isn’t as difficult or time consuming as we like to tell ourselves. Even the smallest things can make others feel special.
Being kind also has a palpable psychological benefit; performing a good deed makes us feel good and more connected with the person we’re helping. So we help ourselves by helping others, creating a mutual benefit.
Dr. Phil Zimbardo: Ep. 18 - How To Stand Up, Take Action And Be An Everyday Hero