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Kind Leadership is about practice...practice...and then even more practice!

I had a call with a very kind young leader a few days ago. When I got on the call, I could see that they were troubled. When I asked why, they said "I've been working on helping one of my team members respond to people in a kinder way and have more positive interactions. But it doesn't seem to be working. I'm frustrated with them because they aren't making the progress I think they should be...and I'm frustrated with myself because I don't think that I should be frustrated with them."

As we talked through the situation, I reminded the kind young leader that many things take much longer than expected, and require much more practice than expected. Although leaders would like things to be "one and done", and wonder why people don't just "do as they are told" the first time, helping someone act, react and interact in kinder, better ways takes time, energy, patience and practice. Learning something new, in general, doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen all at once, especially when it's a behavior change.

Here are some suggestions to help people move along that I gave the kind young leader. You can use them too:

  1. As the leader, make sure you are clear in your own mind about which behaviors and words are acceptable and which are not and why. If you aren't clear, then you won't be able to explain to others.

  2. Tell the person the behavior that is unacceptable, why it is unacceptable, and then give them the behavior you'd like them to replace it with. Be as specific as you can. "Swearing at people, no matter how upset you are, isn't acceptable in any situation here. Instead of using a swear word, please say "I am feeling overly frustrated and need to step away from this conversation for a few minutes".

  3. Don't be surprised if the person pushes back or isn't open to the conversation right away. Many people have what I call very strong "negative first impression". Remember, even if they seem to reject what you are saying in the moment, most people think about things long after the conversation is over.

  4. Look to catch the person "doing something right"! Compliment and recognize any and all efforts they make to change their behavior to the one you are requesting.

  5. When you feel frustrated that the person isn't progressing quickly enough, remind yourself that learning takes time...a lot of it. And practice. A lot of it. And generally progresses "two steps forward and then one step back". And that is okay.

By the end of the call, the kind young leader was feeling better. And back to their normal enthusiasm about their own practice and about helping their team members practice. Making a better, kinder world and kinder organizations is a practice that takes practice. So, keep practicing! You have a whole lifetime to do it!

(I don't cook often, but wanted to learn to make Vietnamese Summer Rolls because they are so tasty. It's take me quite a few times of practicing, but they are getting better! When in doubt, practice!)

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