COLLABORATION AND HIGH PERORMANCE AT THE WORKPLACE

Kindness and Respect are key values

A team consists of a group of people who interact to complete interdependent tasks and work towards a common goal. The terrain of the contemporary workplace especially in the developed world is now characterised by living, constantly changing teams and independent knowledge workers who are collaborating together within the office (colocation) and across the globe (virtual). A collaborative workplace is where a conscious effort has been made to create structures and institutionalise values and practices that enable individuals and groups to effectively work together to achieve goals and business results. A team leader’s responsibility is to strive to achieve a positive atmosphere, connectedness and team affiliation by developing a work environment where commitment grows. The goal is to harness and take full advantage of team power to create a collaborative workplace. People commit themselves to a group, project or organisation that they feel part of. To create a harmonious environment which helps bring out the best in people, a leader must practice the act of kindness. Many behavioural studies have shown that practising acts of kindness has a positive effect on a person’s happiness, satisfaction in relationships, and even one’s physical and mental health.

Kindness and the business world
In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive business landscape, kindness appears to be irrelevant. Some corporate cultures dictate that kindness is not necessary. It can almost be seen as a hindrance which possibly slows down and dulls competitive edge. But kindness is good for business and is more relevant at the workplace than we think.
What does kindness have to do with achieving business objectives? What is the benefit to employers and employees to practise kindness and graciousness in the workplace? Is it simply something that is “good to have” but not essential, or deemed unimportant, compared to the need to scale up performance and increase the bottom-line? The truth is kindness and performance are not mutually exclusive. In fact, practising kindness and graciousness at work leads to connection and connection or affiliation is a motivator for teams or organisation which can lead to better performance and profitability. Researchers at the Harvard Business School have found that happy workers who enjoy their work and have fun working together perform their jobs better. Also Australian School of Business research into business practices also confirmed that compassionate behaviour in a leader has the highest correlation with productivity and profitability.

The leader and kindness
Practicing kindness starts with the team leader. To be kind is to be strong. To be a kind leader is to risk showing that you are a human being, with a softer side but you still hold others accountable for their work. The ability of a leader to wield power is tied directly to his/her relationships with his/her team and with stakeholders. This relationship is a form of affiliation which is a sense of connectedness. Exhibiting and experiencing kindness helps to build those connections. It is easier to feel kindness for others when you feel a connection to them. There are many opportunities for team connections to be established and strengthened in a group. As a leader the first step is to get to know your team members. Create some bonds with them. Learn about them and about things that matter to them. As you build your connections with your team members it will be easier for you to feel kindly toward them. Showing genuine care and appreciation to the people who work for and with you makes the team feel more connected. In project teams, many connecting opportunities are provided to the team by difficult stakeholders, impossible deadlines and challenging project requirements. During these situations, the leader encourages group work, group discussion sessions and active support of team members. These activities serve to reinforce the experience of achievement reached through teamwork to encourage collaboration.
A leader’s preparedness to engage in authentic, honest exchanges coupled with genuine curiosity, care and willingness to go out of way for others, a willingness to pitch in with energetic assistance makes up this picture of a kind and compassionate leader. In creating a culture of support and about encouraging acts of kindness, a team leader can include examples of acts of kindness in team discussion and meetings. This encourages team members to be on the lookout for kindness and also prompts all to engage in kind acts.
Are you a leader? Get started in your workplace and see how infectious kindness can be and how the flame of connectedness will spread through your team. When you bring kindness to your team, you draw on a potentially powerful motivational approach. The connected team does a much better job working together to reach difficult milestones. People want the people who lead them to have their best interests at heart, and they reward this behaviour with greater loyalty and discretionary effort.

Respect and the business world
Another behaviour or value which is missing in our workplaces is respect. In a recent survey by Georgetown University of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, respondents ranked ‘‘respect’’ as the most important leadership behaviour. Yet employees worldwide report more ‘‘disrespectful and uncivil behaviour’’ each year by their leaders, and their lack of understanding of what constitutes workplace respect. Respect is signalled by civility and an atmosphere suggesting that every member of the group is inherently valuable. In environments with too little respect, we typically see micromanagement, incivility and abuse of power.
People’s jobs are often central to who they are and how they perceive themselves; respectful cues in a professional setting are important signals of social worth. What’s more, employees often join organizations in the hope of, growing professionally and becoming better versions of themselves over time. Respect is an important feedback mechanism and catalyst for this growth. A respectful workplace brings enormous benefits to organizations. Employees who feel respected are more satisfied with their jobs and more grateful and loyal to their companies. They are more resilient, cooperate more with others, perform better and more creatively, and are more likely to take direction from their leaders. Conversely, a lack of respect can inflict real damage. Disrespectful treatment often spreads among co-workers and is taken out on customers by poor service attitude.
In all but the most toxic workplaces, building a respectful organization does not demand an overhaul of policies or any other formal changes. Rather, what’s needed is ongoing consideration of the subtle but important ways in which owed and earned respect can be conveyed. Whether we are leaders or co-workers, we can all shape an environment where colleagues reinforce respectful cues and make social worth a day-to-day reality for one another. Recognize that respect has ripple effects. Just as incivility can spiral throughout an organization, so too can respect. Leadership behaviours are often mimicked throughout an organization. The cascade from the top down also shapes the way employees treat customers, industry partners, and other stakeholders. Leaders must build a workplace of respect that allows employees and as a result their companies to become the best possible versions of themselves. Over time consistent experience of respect is a driver not just of employee well-being but also of the company’s high performance.

Final thoughts
When kindness, graciousness and respect are deeply rooted in the team and corporate culture, businesses will profit from higher levels of employee engagement, greater synergy and loyalty, and more fulfilling working relationships. This translates into a more motivated workforce and lower staff turnover, so employers can better retain talent. Furthermore, engaged and loyal employees will be more proactive in innovating and creating solutions for the organisation. The net result is higher profitability in more ways than one. In sum, kindness and respect is good for business. Kindness and respect pays off in business.

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