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The Kindness Strategy
By Lynn Ledford - Cal Elite Kids
Dec. 17, 2015

Kindness. If we are fortunate, we are taught lessons in kindness from the day we are born. We experience kindness from our loved ones. We are encouraged by parents and educators to be kind. We participate in organizations that foster kindness. Awww. Kindness is warm and fuzzy and good for mankind. But wait! There’s more! Did you know that kindness is good for your health? Did you know that kindness also makes you hot? Not temperature hot, but attractive hot? Not kidding! Keep reading. Did you know that kindness can be a smart and innovative business strategy? Shouldn’t we be kind just for the sake of doing the right thing? Of course. But the benefits of kindness are so remarkable that it would be selfish not to provide as many platforms as possible to be kind. And our business presents an amazing platform for kindness.

Performing acts of kindness is good for your health. We are hard wired for kindness. Research shows that the vagus nerve fires up when we perform acts of kindness or even observe acts of kindness. If we hear an emotional story, the vagus nerve fires up. If we are hit with distress, the vagus nerve jumps in. In times of distress, your sympathetic nervous system prepares for fight or flight and sends out the adrenaline and cortisol troops. The parasympathetic nervous system, led by the vagus nerve, responds by sending out neurotransmitters to help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure to literally help your body regain a calming balance. If we see someone else in distress, the vagus nerve gets busy and sends out neurotransmitters that help us feel compassion and prepare us to respond. Like it or not, we are hard wired to have physical, chemical and biological responses to kindness or situations calling for kindness.

Performing acts of kindness make us feel good. Acts of kindness release serotonin and dopamine which help us feel happier. Better yet, performing acts of kindness releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is a miracle hormone. Oxytocin lowers blood pressure, relieves pain, increases feelings of trust, decreases free radicals and inflammation, increases generosity, reduces social fears, and improves metabolism. Oxytocin is essential to human pair bonding and is central to mothering.

Best of all, oxytocin is easy to generate! It is metabolically cheap! Oxytocin is created simply with warm interactions, touch, kindness and hugs. Being kind is good for you.

Being kind makes you more attractive. There have been several studies involving qualities humans look for in a mate. One study, involving over 10,000 people in their 20’s, found that kindness was the most attractive quality in a mate. Kindness outranked looks, money or prestige. There really is something to the adage that true beauty comes from within.

Being kind is good for business.
What kind of leader are you? Do you lead with strength? Fortitude? Character? Do you have high expectations? High standards? High pressure? Stress in the workplace contributes to higher health care costs, higher absenteeism, higher turnover, greater job dissatisfaction and as a result, weaker performance, weaker delivery and decreased organizational effectiveness. Employees who are not happy at work are hurting your gym and costing you money.

The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study found that employee disengagement is a global epidemic. Only 1 of 7 employees is maximally engaged at work. Interestingly, the best solution to reverse the disengagement came in the form of efforts to impart pride and purpose through a culture of KINDNESS. In addressing workplace performance, kindness has been found to outperform financial incentives and recognition programs. We should be promoting a company-wide credo of kindness. Our employees need positive interactions. They need a great friend at work. They need compassion and strength and they need it modeled from the top of the organization down. We spend way too much time with our coworkers NOT to be kind. While kindness to strangers is laudable, our best effort should be awarded to those that are nearest and dearest to us.

Kindness as a Distinguishing Business Strategy
We all want to do things that distinguish our gym club. We all strive for excellent instruction. We all brag about our coaches. We all focus on creating clever marketing campaigns and keeping our gym clean and our practices professional. While we may be able to carve out a little specialty niche here or there, it is hard to distinguish one’s gym in a sea of so many other wonderful gyms. A corporate culture of kindness – one that you live and breathe by and shout out loud, is an excellent way to distinguish your gym club.

Look at big business. Global organizations are realizing that kindness is an effective differentiator. Honda has built its most effective marketing strategy to date on the Helpful Honda campaign. Samsung ran with the kindness strategy when it promised to bring a spare battery to customers if they tweeted the need. Starbucks started a pay it forward movement with its Suspended Coffee Campaign. Starbucks customers were able to purchase a cup of coffee on behalf of someone else who could not afford it. On July 1st (official moving day) Ikea Canada provided 15,000 free moving boxes to locations throughout Montreal. Ikea noted that the campaign was different than a typical sales marketing campaign and that it was really more about gathering insights about the Ikea customer and what was important to them. We have a lot of competition in the gym club industry not only with other gym clubs but with all the other sports and activities that serve children in our community. Acts of kindness with no strings attached can be characterizing and can be an excellent distinguishing business strategy.

Adding Kindness to Your Culture
There are many ways we can implement kindness into our business culture. Here are a few thoughts to get you started!

  1. Be prepared for an employee’s first day. The first day of work at a new job can be daunting. Take the time to prepare a welcome box or basket with helpful and important gifts. You might include the employee’s staff attire, a welcome card signed by all, a few stamps and stamp pads for class, a branded water bottle, a stack of branded ‘Thank You ‘ cards and “Welcome” cards and “We missed you” cards to write to students and customers, a few free class certificates to hand out, a few special award certificates to give to students (Great Job Today etc.), a gift certificate to your store, a few cookies from the front desk, and a book or two about good customer practices. This kind gesture will set the tone with your new employees’ right from the beginning that your gym club cares about its team and embraces kindness as part of its culture.
  2. Lead by example. It’s that simple. Every employee in the gym will benefit from the management team leading with kindness.
  3. Include people in the decision making. I recently had a discussion with several gym owners about feeling disconnected with our ground level operations. As our companies grow and our roles change, we may feel removed from the day to day happenings on the floor and in the viewing areas and in our coaches’ rooms. We don’t necessarily have our finger on the pulse. We recognized a need to include other people in our decision making. As I set about effectuating that, I was very pleased with the response from our staff. They were thrilled to be included. It made them feel important and needed and – in truth, they were!
  4. Take time to help people do their job well. No one wants to feel unsure about their responsibilities or what is expected of them or how to do something. It is bad for the employee and bad for business to throw people on the floor or at the front desk without excellent preparation and training. Excellent preparation and training takes time, discipline and money. But it is the right thing to do and the kind thing to do.
  5. Give ‘next time’ a rest. Not every single interaction or function needs to provide a learning moment. Even when sandwiched between two positives, constant corrections or ‘next time you might think about…” can be defeating. Sometimes it is best to just commend a job well done and not search for every little thing that could have been done differently.
  6. Show gratitude. Say thank you. Say it out loud. Say it privately and say it in front of others. Say it in writing. Say it in performance reviews. Say it often.
  7. Earn trust. A kind leader does what s/he says s/he will do. A kind leader listens. A kind leader keeps confidences and forthrightly puts a stop to gossip and rumor. A kind leader does not embarrass others or cause shame. A kind leader teaches with compassion and respect. A kind leader consistently behaves in ways that earn the trust of everyone in the gym and in the community.
  8. Welcome all. It is good to remind ourselves that our culture should be one that is welcoming at all times to all kinds of children and families. There is no room for the ‘cool’ crowd at the gym. Tall, short, black, white, silly, goofy, odd, talented, stiff, flashy, simple, loud, shy... welcome welcome.
  9. Do good works as a company. Opportunities are everywhere. Make sure your gym shows up. The parade against drugs, the school library fundraiser, the cancer walk, the child’s funeral, the meals on wheels program, the city celebration, the child safety day, the clean up the beach event… Support these events and create your own events. People will love you for it.
  10. Help your employees lead efforts of good works. Kindness is contagious. Enlist your staff. Encourage their ideas. Give them time to plan and execute. Support their events and then show gratitude for their work.
Good luck! Kindness is an excellent strategy for business, for health, for life. Please share with me your success stories of how kindness did good things for your gym!

Lynn Ledford
Cal Elite Kids