An exciting way to celebrate my birthday. Social distancing, the lockdown: just my wife, me and a cake. Our kids missed out on the opportunity to make fun of my age face 2 face. So they found very creative ways to make fun of me online. Virtual cake with a burning candle via zoom, beautiful birthday songs via Whatsapp: cool! The number of birthday wishes online increased this year. Lot’s of friends, business partners, and old colleagues on Linkedin. What was different this year that for most, it was a trigger to start a conversation. A real conversation. How are you doing, what is the impact on your business, how are you coping. Real conversations about real topics. The conversations came in two flavors. The old friends that were in an acute financial crisis. Vaporized revenue in countries with limited social security is not a combination to envy. I had a lot of talks about how to pay the mortgage, the bills, and credit card debts. Unsolvable problems right now, all I can offer is to listen to them. Just listen without offering solutions, really. Just be there.
The other flavor of real conversations were more forward-looking. Imagine this crisis will last 3 months: where do you want to be, stand, arrive at that point. How to use the fact that suddenly time is in abundance wisely. Jointly trying to predict what the new normal will be in 3 months. Companies will most likely reboot in 3 months, and at the same time will have to deal with customers that have unique, very different expectations. Months of lockdown separation and living connected online will fore sure have an impact on our future customers. So we have to change our value propositions as well. Intriguing conversations, lots to learn. As we start making a list of what we have to learn, change, transform to be in a better state at the start of the post-crisis era, the to-do list starts to evolve. There is work to be done, now. Let’s get to it.
In this new world we live in, that work seems to be approached differently by the communities I operate in. Experienced people offer to help. Offer to help without any form of expectation of direct payment. Consultants stepping up to the plate to assist others. All with the common goal to be in the best possible starting position in 3 months from now. These are experienced folks, expensive folks, and worth every penny. They all seem to consciously understand that a new way of connecting is needed. Connecting based on kindness. Kindness is not a new concept, but it has a new meaning in business today. I suddenly see the business equivalent of paying forward. Professionals offering the business variety of suspended coffee. Suspended consulting. That free of charge working towards that common goal, how to best prepare for this new world. I can only say that it very much deepens business relations. In the words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you did, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
This new kindness is contagious. Kindness is the key ingredient for the online business community cohesion. Humans are social creatures, and it turns out that businesses can be too. This new kindness, this suspended consulting, has a positive impact on the art of giving, forces us to get better at receiving. Random acts of kindness, kindness in times of Corona. This pay-it-forward in business is very implicit. I help you right now, no strings attached. We instinctively understand: no invoice to be sent, no money to change hands. More and more businesses give their employees permission to rise to the occasion as well. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to be kind arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith. There is no formula for teaching kindness. Leadership can be the starting point of demonstrative empathy. Each leader that allows employees to practice kindness in business can be a trigger. According to chaos theory, a small action can be a trigger to multiple subsequent actions. In a business setting, an owner could publicly reward an employee’s customer focussed kindness, which could cause the employee to spread their extra happiness to twenty customers that day. This butterfly effect is out there, it’s is real. I want to be part of it, offer my services to anyone that can use them. And in 3 months from now, I know whom I want to work with, the professionals I have met, that helped me move forward. The experts that allowed me to help them. 3 months from now I want to hire the companies that were part of this Corona butterfly effect. In that way, kindness is the new currency.