Sometimes Kindness Means No

Hindsight is always 20/20. Many of us use this feature of our humanity to look back at how we treated others to see if there are opportunities to improve. More than once we find them.

Sometimes you might find that in areas where you thought you were being kind by saying yes you were actually hurting someone–sometimes that someone is yourself. Selfless acts are noble and if done properly they can help us stretch our skills and gain empathy for others, but all too often we say yes to things without thinking of the bigger lessons involved.

Sometimes kindness means no.

small things are awesome

It’s easy to do the small things in life. They do take discipline, but they are also pretty easy.

I’m old enough now to see how the small things I’ve done have made a difference. There was a time I took some teenagers running. It was a great morning for a run. There had recently been a brush fire that cleared almost all of the bushes that made some of the terrain otherwise unaccessible.

We took off.

We ran by bison along the trail and when we hit the scorched earth our feet were wonderfully padded by fresh layers of ash. It was a blast.

One of the young men in the group attributed that experience to helping him love to run. Running was how he met a cute girl. Now that cute girl is his wife.

It wasn’t much at the time. It was just a fun opportunity to go for a run. I didn’t know how it made a difference until the wedding reception.

Yesterday at church I brought some post-it notes. Prior to services starting I shared the post-its with some of the children in the congregation and asked them to write “I’m glad you’re here today” and put it in the Sacrament Hymn (the song prior to taking the Sacrament [communion]).

It was fun to see faces light up. First of the kids as they were hiding the post-its in the books. Second of the families who enjoyed a nice message as part of their preparation for the sacrament.

It’s a small thing.

Small things are a good way to make a difference.

The right thing to do isn’t always on the checklist

People often make checklists, and while they’re not bad tools they really aren’t the best tools ever. Most people who read English have their brain trained to read top to bottom left to right. What happens if the thing that’s the most important on your list isn’t what you remembered first and isn’t what you wrote first on the list?

Then there’s the question about who value to whom.

Don’t smirk. It’s real.

Different stakeholders will see different items on the list as having different values. At work, I measure each task I do based upon the value it has to the business (business value), project value (does it help us move the project forward), stakeholder value (something that improves the stakeholder experience). By measuring my tasks against their intended benefits I can easily adjust and pivot to doing the work that has the most value.

Often times though, the right thing to do never makes it to my checklist.

I saw Michele in the hallway the other day and she looked like she needed a friend. So I asked a question that allowed her to stop and take a breath and describe what was going on. As I listened she could see the value of her efforts. I could appreciate the challenges she was facing. The conversation was mutually beneficial.

Listening was the right thing to do.

But it wasn’t on the checklist…


In less than 15 minutes I have another meeting for work. My youngest juts asked me why I have a meeting on Sunday? The answer is pretty easy to understand. My project has team members in Seoul (S. Korea) and Hyderabad (India). Sunday afternoon is their Monday morning.

To conduct the meetings we use one of several apps that allow teams to communicate across the globe in real time, with video, and chat features.

I grew up in an era with rotary phones and long-distance charges.

I remember when we had a touch tone phone and one of my brothers accidentally called Japan. There as no forgiveness of the charges. The call was going to added to the bill and there was nothing we could do about it.

What we do on the calls is important, but sometimes I’m distracted from the work we have to do and I’m just fascinated that we can have the conversations.

Beethoven’s 9th was about uniting the world. Today we’re living as part of that when we use the technology we have to communicate around the globe.

I’m fascinated by the fact that we are communicating. What I’m doing was part of science fiction only a few years ago. Remember when we thought iPods were cool?

When we communicate we’re sharing information about cultures, shared understanding, and working towards a common goal.

While what we’re doing is really important, some days I find how we do it to be the most fascinating.

Change vs Innovation

I’m often surprised how English assigns ownership to people instead of objects and things.  For example in German when someone is hot (temperature) they would say that they have heat.  If they were cold the phrase would literally translate to the person having cold.

In Spanish if you dropped your phone you wouldn’t say that you dropped your phone.  You would say that your phone dropped.

Since our mental narrative is in our native language those who speak English might be more culturally programmed to see how their actions impact the world around them.

Within English we do have a diversity of words and their meanings.  For example, the word change implies a difference between one state and another with the same objects/actors involved.  Innovation on the other hand implies that there needs to be a conscious choice made as to the type of change that occurs.

So, with that difference it’s worth asking, do you innovate, or do you change?  Do your teams innovate, or do they change?