#186 – Integrity Idea 031: Catalyze “Kindness”

ESSENCE:  Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Catalyze “Kindness”

COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action):  Practices

COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt):  Highly Covert

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community

Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  “Catalyze Kindness” is about cultivating an organizational culture in which people are encouraged to engage in acts of “kindness” toward co-workers, customers, suppliers and the community.  It recognizes the importance to business a better way of pursuing the flourishing of humans (rather than Profit as Purpose) as the “end” to which the organization is managed, which means embedding Biblical concepts of relationships, community and human dignity into the organization’s culture.  Core to faithful integrity are the two great commandments (love God and love your neighbor) and God’s model of love as giving and serving generously.  A faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way is called not only to live out those commandments but also to find ways to encourage others to do so as well.  “Kindness” can take many forms but expressing authentic “appreciation” is particularly important in an organizational context.  For a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity, “Catalyze Kindness” is part of living out “faithful presence”–enacting Shalom where they are, for the benefit of all.

Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.  You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)

Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization.  We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process.  Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.

“Catalyze Kindness” falls into the “if it fits” category.  While leading a business with faithful integrity through business a better way requires cultivating a culture that reflects and prioritizes Biblical concepts of relationships, community and human dignity, a “kindness” initiative is just one idea for implementing that goal.

INTEGRITY IDEA: Catalyze “Kindness”

“Catalyze Kindness” is about cultivating an organizational culture in which people are encouraged to engage in acts of “kindness” toward co-workers, customers, suppliers and the community.

It recognizes the importance to business a better way of pursuing the flourishing of humans (rather than Profit as Purpose) as the “end” to which the organization is managed, which means embedding Biblical concepts of relationships, community and human dignity into the organization’s culture.

You may recall one of our most-used quotes from James Hunter:

To manage a business in a way that grows out of a Biblical view of relationships, community and human dignity before God has divine significance, irrespective of what else might be done from this platform.

Core to faithful integrity and business a better way are the two great commandments (love God and love your neighbor) and God’s model of love as giving and serving generously.  A faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way is called not only to live out those commandments but also to find ways to encourage others to do so as well.  Hebrews 10:24 instructs:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

“Kindness” can take many forms but expressing authentic “appreciation” is particularly important in an organizational context.  For a faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity, “Catalyze Kindness” is also part of living out “faithful presence”–enacting Shalom where they are, for the benefit of all.

The Great Commandments and Faithful Presence

We have mentioned James Hunter and his book To Change the World in several past posts (see particularly post #053–Loving Generously–Faithful Presence).  In To Change the World, Hunter introduces a concept he calls “faithful presence“.  Faithful presence is the best tool we know for understanding what it means to love your neighbor through the culture of social structures such as organizations and businesses.  It is about enacting Shalom where you are–for the benefit of all.

He describes it as follows:

A theology of faithful presence calls Christians to enact the shalom of God in the circumstances in which God has placed them and to actively seek it on behalf of others. . . . What this means is that where and to the extent that we are able, faithful presence commits us to do what we can to create conditions in the structures of social life we inhabit that are conducive to the flourishing of all.

Faithful presence is a way of living out love your neighbor in our daily life–even while working in, or leading, an organization.  Let’s look at some key ideas in Hunter’s description:

• Enact the Shalom of God.  “Shalom” does not just mean “peace”. At Integrous, we define Shalom as “an environment in which truth, beauty and goodness are valued and people and institutional cultures flourish by doing what God designed them to do in the way God designed them to do it—assisting in God’s restorative plan for His Kingdom by adding to its beauty“.

• Where God Has Placed You.   Faithful presence and loving your neighbor do not require you to go on a mission trip to a developing nation or volunteer at a soup kitchen (though you may well choose to do those worthwhile things as a way of loving your neighbor).  In fact, faithful presence is much more demanding!  It is one thing to do a once-per-year (or once-in-a-lifetime) “mission vacation” and feel like you have checked off “love your neighbor”, but it is quite another to begin living it out where God has placed you–at work and in the marketplace–EVERY DAY.

• Actively Seek It On Behalf of Others.  Faithful presence is not about creating our own personal paradise of Shalom.  It is derived from love your neighbor, which means it is about creating environments of Shalom that benefit everyone, whether or not they share your faith.

• Create Conditions in the Structure of Social Life.  Faithful presence is not just about loving individuals.  It is about transforming social structures, which includes organizations, businesses, departments, working groups.  In To Change the World, Hunter argues that cultures change through institutions more than through individuals.  Where God has given you influence over or in a social structure such as a business, love your neighbor commands you to do what you can to move it toward Shalom.  We believe that means embracing Hebrews 10:24 and taking steps to “stir up” others.

• Conducive To the Flourishing of All.  Faithful presence and Shalom are about human flourishing, and they are about promoting and facilitating flourishing for EVERYONE in the social structures you or your organization touches.

Kindness as an Expression of the Faithful Presence

“Kindness” is a way to express “love your neighbor” that is “covert”.  While people may recoil from a phrase that sounds “religious” in its origins, “kindness” is universal and non-threatening.  We believe “kindness” falls within what Tim Keller has called “first-order beliefs” that God has written on the heart of every human:

People have innate consciences that are preloaded with senses of honesty, justice, love, the Golden Rule, and so on. . . . This universal knowledge of God and of good—this aspect of natural revelation—has been called “first-order beliefs.” All people hold these beliefs at some level, even if their conscious, intellectual, culturally conditioned “second-order beliefs” deny them utterly.

We learned recently that the country of Singapore–a secular nation–funds a national “kindness” initiative called the Singapore Kindness Movement.

An organizational initiative to “Catalyze Kindness” hits all the elements of Hunter’s description of faithful presence.  It engages employees in the effort to cultivate a culture of Shalom, whether or not they profess a Biblical faith.

Appreciation as an Expression of Kindness

Dr. William Wan, the General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement and a leader of Biblical faith, has written:

Treating each other with respect, empathy, and compassion, and valuing and appreciating one another are necessary pieces in the cultural fabric of kindness.

Gary Chapman, creator of the “Five Love Languages” model, has written a book on the importance of appreciation in the workplace called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People.  In it he explains some important statistics about the importance of appreciation–a form of “kindness”–in the workplace:

According to research conducted by the US Department of Labor, 64% of Americans who leave their jobs say they do so because they don’t feel appreciated.

A Glassdoor survey found four out of five employees (81%) say they are “motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.

Most managers (89%) believe employees leave for more money, while only 11% of managers believe employees leave for other reasons. . . . In reality, only 12% of employees reported leaving for more money, while 88% of employees state they leave for reasons other than money. In fact, the reasons most often cited by departing employees were more psychological in nature—including not feeling trusted or valued.

In a global study of over 200,000 employees completed by the Boston Consulting Group, the most important factor employees related to enjoying their job was that they felt appreciated.

51% of managers say they do a good job of showing recognition for a job well done. But only 17% of the employees who work for those managers say the manager shows recognition for work well done.

Chapman also makes an interesting and important distinction between “recognition” and “appreciation”.

Recognition is largely about behavior. . . .  Appreciation, conversely, focuses not only on performance but also affirms the employee’s value as a person.

He points out that many workplace efforts about appreciation are really about recognition.  We believe “recognition” falls short of “kindness”.

While a “Catalyze Kindness” initiative can promote random acts of kindness to co-workers (e.g., buying someone a cup of coffee) or the community (e.g., participating in a community service project), showing appreciation is free, takes little time, and meets what seems to be an important workplace need for people to flourish.

The Importance of Appreciation to Connection

If you have been following our posts, this discussion of appreciation may remind you of earlier posts focused on worker engagement.  We believe employee “engagement” is a helpful proxy for assessing whether work is perceived as a burden or as the blessing God intended.

Just as James Hunter’s faithful presence is the best tool we know for understanding what it means to love your neighbor through the culture of social structures such as organizations and businesses, Mike Stallard’s “connection culture” is the best tool we know for understanding human engagement at work in an organization.

Stallard explains that a healthy work culture is a “culture of connection” in which humans feel connected to the organization, to their work and relationally to each other.  This aligns with managing an organization in a way that prioritizes relationships, community, human dignity and flourishing–it aligns with business a better way.  According to Stallard, a healthy culture of connection exists when people have:

Vision:  When everyone in the organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values, and proud of the reputation.

Value:  When everyone in the organization understands the needs of people, appreciates their positive unique contributions, and helps them achieve their potential.

Voice:  When everyone in the organization seeks the ideas of others, shares their ideas and opinions honestly, and safeguards relational connections

“Value” and “Voice” can be seen as fruits of “kindness”.   Acts of kindness expressed through appreciation help create connection, which leads to a culture of engagement–a healthy culture of Shalom.

The Importance of Authenticity to Kindness

One of the greatest leaders in the Bible is David, and the leadership of David is beautifully and simply summed up in Psalm 78:72:

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

“Integrity of heart” in the context of “Catalyze Kindness” means that acts of “kindness” are being encouraged and supported in order to live out the Great Commandments and be obedient to Hebrews 10:24.   It is genuinely to “love your neighbor” and to “stir up one another to love and good works”.   

Both Dr. Wan in his book Making Kindness Our Business and Gary Chapman in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace go to great lengths to describe the “bottom-line” benefits of kindness and appreciation.  That may be true, but it can’t be the point.  It might be the hope of a faithful leader pursuing “Catalyze Kindness” that the organization will prosper, but it can’t be the leader’s ulterior motive for “Catalyze Kindness”.  That would be the wrong WHY, and WHY matters.

“Catalyze Kindness” can easily be pursued by a secular organization, but the WHY is likely to be motivated, either explicitly or implicitly, by the promise of a positive impact on financial results–Profit as Purpose.  Sadly, we believe it ceases to be “kindness”.  Both Dr. Wan and Chapman are careful to point out that a lack of authenticity–integrity of heart–undermines kindness and appreciation efforts.  Employees will know when they are being manipulated, and manipulation is neither kind nor appreciative.

CONTINUUM: Practices

The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums.  There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture.  The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.

Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.

“Catalyze Kindness” is on the Practice Continuum.  Practices reflect, and at the same time help shape and reinforce, an organization’s culture.  Purpose and values define the culture of an organization; the culture shapes the behavior of the people in the organization; and the behavior of the people drives the results of the organization.

“Catalyze Kindness” embodies Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities that an organization must seek to embed in its culture if it is committed to operating with faithful integrity through business a better way.

COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert

The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.

Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale.  Some can vary depending on how they are implemented.  “Catalyze Kindness” is at the Highly Covert end of the Continuum because it is a practice that a secular organization could easily adopt (although likely with a WHY linked to Profit as Purpose).  “Catalyze Kindness” could also be moved toward the overt end of the continuum if the leaders decide to explain the Biblical basis for “kindness”.  Whether it is Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization), Very Overt (an overtly faith-based action involving suppliers, vendors or customers) or Highly Overt (“an overtly faith-based action involving community, website, sales/marketing materials) depends upon how widely it is explained.

STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community

When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.

“Catalyze Kindness” has a broad impact because it impacts how the organization’s humans interact with each other and the world.  It serves employees, customers/clients, owners, suppliers/vendors and the community.  They benefit from being touched by an organization with a WHY of maximizing the flourishing of people and being touched by humans who have been encouraged and supported in engaging in acts of kindness.  “Catalyze Kindness” can also serve the Kingdom to the extent the organization proclaims what it is doing and why it is doing it.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

IMPLEMENTATION

Every faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way should be praying and thinking about how to cultivate and reinforce an organizational culture of Shalom that prioritizes relationships, community and human dignity.

One way to do that is by encouraging and supporting authentic acts of kindness by those they lead–kindness to co-workers, customers, vendors and the community.  Authentic “kindness” Humanizes both the giver of the kindness and the recipient, Beautifies the World, and thereby Glorifies God, whether or not the givers or recipients understand the Biblical connections.

Here are a few things for a leader to consider as they prayerfully think about a “Catalyze Kindness” initiative:

“Kindness” must start at, and be modeled from, above by executives and managers, but it must be encouraged between and among all employees–going down, up and sideways.

“Appreciation” seems to be a powerful and easily shared form of “kindness” to be encouraged that is sorely lacking in most organizations.

“Kindness” can extend to the organization’s community through community service projects.

“Kindness” can be encouraged through some mechanism of “recognition” and “appreciation” (e.g., a wall of “thanks”), but care must be taken to ensure that this does not taint the motivation behind the acts of kindness or create resentment for kindness not recognized.

In prayerfully considering “Catalyze Kindness”, faithful leaders should consider:

How will a “kindness” initiative be rolled out?

How will supervisors, managers and employees be trained?

Will “kindness” efforts be extended to customer and vendor relationships?

Will employees be empowered to use company resources for acts of “kindness” (e.g., toward customers or vendors)?  If so, what will be the guidelines or parameters (e.g., The Ritz-Carlton famously empowered every employee–including housekeepers–to spend up to $2,000/guest to solve a customer problem on the spot)?

How will “kindness” be tied to the organization’s vision and values?

How will “kindness” be reinforced (e.g., e-mails, posters, recognition and appreciation mechanisms)?

Will the Biblical basis for “kindness” be explained?  If so, how widely?

A faithful leader seeking to lead an organization with faithful integrity through business a better way needs to be a faithful presence, doing what they can to enact the Shalom of God where God has placed them by transforming the heart of organization–transforming its WHY from Profit as Purpose to the flourishing of God’s creation, particularly people.   In the words of our friend Dr. Skip Moen:

 When I am called to shepherd (the role of the leader), I am expected to nourish my neighbor.  It is the flock at hand that is my first assignment as a representative of the King. . . . God is a neighborhood God.  He has great plans but they are accomplished in small circles.  One person’s obedience can change the whole world – one neighbor at a time.

Or as put more simply by Theodore Roosevelt:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  I was privileged to spend last week at the KILN (Kingdom International Legal Network) Conference in Kenya.  On the 15-hour plane ride to Kenya, I started to read the Gary Chapman book on love languages of appreciation at work.  At the conference, I had the honor of meeting Dr. William Wan of the Singapore Kindness Movement.  I bought his book on kindness and read it during the 15-hour flight home (in between a movie and sleep).  Meeting William and being infected by his enthusiasm for “kindness” was the inspiration for this post.  Thank you William (and all the kind people at the KILN Conference).

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Photo credit: Original photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash (photo cropped)