Never Forget to Be Kind

Authors Note: I am either making up for a lot of lost time or have a lot on my mind. (You decide!) But, either way, here I go with yet another On the Rocks...

Remember that famous Thomas Paine quote when he was leading his troops to battle in the Civil War? These are the times that try man’s soul...

It’s no secret that “these are the times” for a great many of us. We are quickly approaching the last quarter of the year and the final push to finish strong. We are busy in Chicago – coming up on Holiday season for our retail clients (yes, I know it is still August), getting ready for a launch for a break-through sustainability initiative for a client, dealing with a crisis for another around the clock, helping our pharma client prepare for three quickly approaching drug launches and buried in planning for our CPG friends ! And I know that is just scratching at the surface.

I know it feels like we don’t have enough hours in the day or people to do the work.

I get it, I really truly do. It is hard not to walk the halls around here as I do and not see that. I also get it that moving this fast makes staffing more complex and more challenging. And I promise you...that is what keeps me up at night and I am working to find a way to fix it.

But in the meantime, what I woke up thinking about the last couple of days was not operational efficiency or all the work we have in front of us, it was quite simply kindness. Yes, kindness.

In times of stress in any organization it is all too easy to forget the common courtesies that typically guide our behavior. We are busy, we are stressed, we have a lot on our minds, and we are working long hours. Even the best intentioned among us can make bad choices during trying times. Here are some observations I’ve made — not just here, but throughout my career.

  • Sometimes it feels more expedient, more efficient to fire off a one- line email from your iPhone than to take the time to provide a context that will lead to mutual understanding and support.

  • Or maybe with a long “to do” list back at our desks it can be hard to make the time to explain what we want...or provide examples, so there is a clear and shared understanding – as opposed to just reacting to what we don’t want.

  • Blurring the lines between home and office is easy to do when we feel pressured and it is all too easy to take it out on the wrong person. Take it from me; it is never the dog’s fault.

  • It may sound cliché, but it is also one of the primary benefits of being on the agency side is that we are a team – who together can handle anything, and I do mean anything – a client throws at us, but we need to stick together. Start from a place of us and we vs. me and my. It is great to be a champion for your clients, but don’t ever forget you work for the agency and we have your back.

  • Don’t forget to cut each other some slack. Ideally, we don’t lose our manners or our sense of humor during these crazy times, but if that does happen to one of your colleagues or your boss, try to give them a little understanding. Who knows what they might have been dealing with?

  • And finally, just like our parents taught us, a simple “please, will you help,” or a “thank you for your help,” will go a long way in keeping our collective levels of motivation high. In times of stress, even the most basic courtesies can sometimes be forgotten.

These are indeed trying times. But they can be fun and rewarding times too. Change is never easy. As General Norman Schwarzkopf said, “leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” Well, we don’t have to worry about that choice – our strategy is clear. So my advice — my request — is let’s be guided by our strategy but focus on character and remember to be just a little bit kinder to each other.

P.S. (An important one)
Kind people still argue with each other. That’s okay. Passionate people argue about things they feel strongly about. That’s okay. Fighting for an idea or a principle is the mark of leadership – hell, it’s often the mark of heroism. Call me naïve, but I think we can fight about ideas, or strategy or staffing and be kind.