Today is World Kindness Day! Following on from Part II of our Kindness Series in November, Advisor to the Board of World Kindness USA Michael Lloyd-White educates organisations on the Kindness Clause and how we can be authentic in its application for creating a kinder world.
The World Kindness Movement says, “Practice Kindness” because we never get it right, it’s a work in progress. We carry the same risk as every organisation simply because we are all afflicted with the frailty of the human condition and therefore susceptible to the dangers of knee jerk emotional reactions, gossip and power plays.
Enabling kindness in culture is not easy. People, especially volunteers, can appear selfless but they may seek recognition through a title or an introduction to an influential network or just glory. Finding someone who is selfless in a world that has become all about self is difficult, however even if they are not, we hope once they become part of what we are doing they will be influenced. We are bound to have people and organisations join seeking some benefit of belonging. This is why we developed the KPIs (Kindness Performance Indicators) for members to national bodies to adopt.
The difference between a NFP and a Kindness Organisation
The expectation is that all of us have kindness on the agenda and expect colleagues to provide a friendly reminder, not to sit in judgement of others, but rather, offer support to de-escalate potentially volatile situations. This is not always easy in practise, so we drafted and sponsored a motion at the 9th General Assembly to have the world’s first “Kindness Clause” inserted into our constitution, which has become known as Article 28.
We can find ourselves becoming busy in conducting our business but even for the peak global kindness body we found that there was an essential element missing from the very core of our organisation. We should not be complacent, nor should we make the assumption just because we are a peak “kindness” organisation that we are automatically immune to the frailties of the human condition. We speak about placing “kindness on the agenda” and embedding a culture of kindness from our classrooms, to staffrooms, boardrooms to those in the corridors of government. We asked ourselves, does WKM have kindness firmly embedded in its foundation?
Perhaps after 20 years of almost incident free global operations, spanning 28 nations, some asked if nothing is broken why try and fix it? Is it necessary to spell it out as surely, we of all people are more conscious of the important role kindness plays in all sectors of our society?
Our movement continues to grow as does the task to create a kinder world finding itself struggling to be the best it can be. With our pending registration in Geneva upon us it is very likely that Article 28 of the World Kindness Movement Constitution is the first of its kind. My hope is that this article will be a benchmark and will be referred to and adopted by many seeking to strengthen their foundations. Interestingly it was not unanimous. It requires a 75% majority vote for the WKM constitution to be amended, we got 77%. Some felt we did not need this it was better suited to HR document. I disagreed. Many of the organisations which find themselves making the headlines for the wrong reasons already have Codes Of Conduct and specific HR documents yet are rarely applied. When we sign an agreement we rarely look at it again unless there is an issue.
Article 28 is designed to be a U-turn asking if we used our best endeavours to choose the kinder option and it invites us to examine if all our conversations have ‘best intent’; had we invited the person to join in a conversation in kindness over a cup of tea or coffee? These questions must be asked as part of a self-audit to remind us we must be the best we can, and the hope is this will de-escalate potentially volatile situations through a gentle nudge so our minds default in every decision-making process to choose the kinder option.
Kindness Campaign Strategy to Address Toxic Cultures
Recognizing the largest enabler to cultures of bullying is bystander behaviour, often through individuals seeking the safety of silence, it raised the issue of the role fear plays as a main driver.
Not being mean does not mean you are being kind.
This in part is due to the fear of being targeted by a bully. However, as we dig a little deeper it seems the fear of being excluded from the group, puts at risk our sense of belonging, which is the greater driver. This has seen our best and bravest allow toxic cultures to thrive in our defence force, police force and emergency services for generations. This is significant as the individuals concerned knowingly choose a career which at some point in time could be asked to be placed in harm’s way. The irony is that making this career choice in some part requires courage, however they choose to remain silent when they see their own being victimised, humiliated, beaten, excluded or raped. In some part the burden of compliance is used to justify “towing the line” or protecting the brand, however fear is central to allowing toxic cultures to prevail.
How do we counter one of the greatest motivating factors of the human condition, when fear of excommunication by the ‘group’ has been embedded in our culture since time immemorial?
We need to look at what works and the most successful global campaign to date featured in the 24/7 news cycle, even capturing those who oppose it is the campaign of “Fear and Hate. We reversed engineered it borrowing the core of its business model to create “Cells of Kindness and Compassion”.
It seemed obvious that a Kinder World would be considered safer and therefore less fearful so people would more likely engage and collaborate.
The challenge was that kindness was often mistaken for weakness so we first needed to clear up the messaging and myths surrounding Kindness. Kindness is not about hearts and flowers sugar and spice and all things nice and it certainly does not belong to one gender or the other. People often see Kindness as light and fluffy benign and non-threatening which we can use to our advantage. The truth is, Kindness is powerful and has the same contagion as fear.
Different elements to kindness will attract different people, however we settled on the element of courage as there is no act of courage which is not tempered with kindness. If we truly want to live in a kinder world, everyone must find the courage to be kind.
Relying on leadership is overrated as it is temporary at best, so we need to be embedding a culture of kindness in everything we do.
World Kindness Australia was registered with a diverse board and within 12 months our strategy was presented in London at the 7th General Assembly of the peak global body and we were elected to be the secretariat to spearhead the global campaign.
A Strategy for a Kinder World
Change is almost always resisted, and sometimes new ideas fail; not because they won’t work but because they came from people outside the clique and if you do happen to succeed you may find yourself being resented because you have not done your time or you challenged traditional methodology. We are a funny bunch and often territorial which means the tribal mechanism will activate and newcomers are often relegated to the fringe or ridiculed if the ideas challenge the status quo. This happens in schools, community groups and business.
We discriminate on everything from race religion, gender sexual preference and even postcodes. The same village that takes responsibility for raising the child should be the same village that takes responsibility for abusing a child.
The challenge is in not owning the problem, which belongs to all of us, instead we blame others. It will take a collaborative approach to solve it once we accept we own it.
Kindness creates a great platform for inclusion because most of us are kind that’s the way we were born and sometimes we just need a friendly reminder. The negative behaviour is usually learnt behaviour; however Kindness is instinctive.
Placing Kindness on The Agenda
To ensure an inclusive culture exists kindness must first be on the agenda to start a “Conversation In Kindness”. This is formally adopted through a motion and driven by individuals whether they be appointed or chosen from a hat as Goodwill Ambassadors have an important role to play. We encourage the appointment of Goodwill Ambassadors to lead initiatives and meet periodically to share ideas. We organised 400 events in three months through partnering with local schools once the Minister of Education placed World Kindness Day (13th Nov) on the School Calendar. Partnerships are a key element to our campaign and we have all sectors involved from business, education, government, sport and art.
Seeking the “kinder option” as a default in our decision-making process is the ultimate goal, however our intention was to create a self-audit, a UTurn when confronted with volatile situations. The ripple effect of decisions made today have a broad reach for generations to come. My hope is more people feel as we do and ensure they do their best to de-escalate volatile situations through relinquishing the safety of silence by embracing the courage to be kind. This is a collaborative process in the workshop, however we develop bespoke tools for the workplace by:
- Placing “Kindness” on the agenda
- Hosting a “Conversations In Kindness”
- Create a shift in the culture through raising awareness to the important role Kindness plays in our society
- Provide tools for engagement Kindness Index and World Kindness Card
- Acknowledge Kindness Cool to be Kind Awards & Courage to be Kind Awards; and
- Empowering individuals.
Leadership is important but rarely does it last past a generation if policy is not embedded through a cultural change in thinking and attitude. Even constitutions are not bullet proof as many seek to interpret words to suit. If that does not work amendments are made to get their way e.g. Kindness needs to be layered at all levels of an organisation.
If one did a word search on company job descriptions, handbooks, websites, emails and minutes of meetings how often would the word kindness appear? Zero. It does not even appear in our national curriculum.
I’m pleased to say that as our corporate membership grows you will find kindness appearing more often. The challenge is to ensure it takes hold and that’s why we insist on the Signing Ceremonies, appointment of Goodwill Ambassadors and Declarations of Support which many councils have now adopted including the City of Sydney and Gold Coast City Councils.
On Tuesday 14 November World Kindness Australia will have its World Kindness City Presentation at the Gold Coast Council Chambers, Surfers Paradise, Queensland.