December 26, 2012
I’ve never been one who spends a lot of time contemplating or writing a long list of New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, at the end of each December I enjoy looking back at the year and considering the most important things I learned. What stood out the most for me during 2012 was summed up perfectly by Bill Taylor in the title of a blog he wrote for Harvard Business Review, “It’s More Important to Be Kind than Clever.”
In his article, Taylor tells the story of a grandmother who was in the hospital and very ill due to cancer. She wished she could have some clam chowder, specifically the clam chowder from Panera Bread. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Friday, which is when Panera sells their clam chowder. The woman’s grandson, Brandon, called the local Panera and spoke with the manager, Suzanne Fortier. “Not only did Sue make clam chowder specially for Brandon’s grandmother, she included a box of cookies as a gift from the staff.”
After Brandon posted the story of Suzanne’s kindness on his Facebook page and his mother told the story on Panera’s Facebook page, the story went viral on social media. And Panera received what “no amount of traditional advertising can buy – a genuine sense of affiliation and appreciation from customers around the world,” noted Taylor.
Similarly, I recently had a friend accidentally leave her wallet at a restaurant. The restaurant went out of their way to track her down, even calling her eye doctor, who’s card was in her wallet, to obtain my friend’s telephone number. The eye doctor also went out of their way to contact my friend and let her know the restaurant was holding her misplaced wallet. When my friend arrived at the restaurant to pick up her wallet she was pleasantly surprised that everything was still in it, even her money. She also told her friends about this situation on her Facebook page and received an incredible number of responses with kudos to the restaurant staff and those at her eye doctor’s office.
But why do such acts of kindness need to be so surprising (and so few in number)? Businesses are made up of people and acts of genuine kindness can go a long way in improving the lives of others as well as creating stronger relationships with customers.
Bill Taylor ended his article with an important point. He believes it’s important for employees in businesses to be efficient, “But just make sure all their efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of their humanity. Small gestures can send big signals about who we are, what we care about, and why people should want to affiliate with us. It’s harder (and more important) to be kind than clever.”
Together, let’s make 2013 the year to encourage acts of kindness throughout the world.
Photo credit: Microsoft Free Clip Art