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How to Get Ahead in Your Career...and Still be Kind

8/22/2011 4:06:34 PM

By Vickie Elmer,

You want to cultivate a reputation as an incredibly hard working, talented and smart professional. So perhaps you start by serving up kindness and generosity daily.

For kindness really can create a strong backbone for career success – if it comes with a side of business sense.

In an excellent Harvard Business Review blog post, Jodi Glickman suggests that generosity “can make your career” if you use it to show a strong work ethic and communicate well.

Glickman’s top idea for being generous at work is one that will make any supervisor smile: Make your boss’ life easier or better. “Put her agenda ahead of your own and watch as your star rises,” she writes.

Yet Glickman, author of Great On the Job, has plenty of company in talking and writing about kindness as a success tool. The idea that you use your decency and generosity as a game-changer or as a way to stand out and build a team shows up in books, in blogs and even in an American Management Association survey a couple of years ago. People who work for kind bosses are almost twice as likely to say they expect to work for their organization for a long time. And 70 percent of those with good bosses say they work as hard as they can, versus 54 percent of those who report to bullies.

So how can you cultivate your career while showing your kindness? Consider these approaches:

1. Get ahead to get ahead.
If you finish your part of the project a day ahead of its deadline, you give a small gift of time to the rest of the team. You also show everyone you can manage your time well and are thoughtful of others’ needs and contributions. My WorkingKind blog gave this idea as part of my series on creating career karma.

2. Create spontaneous connections.
When community manager Dawn Foster sees someone struggling with a project or activity, she tries to introduce them to someone who could help. In Foster’s GigaOm post called 5 ways to pay it forward and get ahead, she says she’s also been grateful for similar connections in the past.

3. Give your insights.
Post a comment on a blog or offer up some superb ideas on LinkedIn Answers. Give your best answers on Quora. Focus your information sharing in areas where you really have a depth of experience to contribute and where your opinions and ideas are likely to be welcomed. Or share information on to help others understand the culture of your workplace or what your job is like. This will help the job seeker or blogger or the person posing the question – and will build your reputation and credentials too.

4. Boost others’ prospects.
“Kindness builds a reservoir of resilience and self-confidence, enabling people to think big and to believe in what they are capable of accomplishing,” writes Michael O’Malley, co-author of the book Leading with Kindness. Smart leaders “revel and find satisfaction in the success of others” and see how their support and clear goals allow individuals to thrive. When others excel, it reflects well on you and your management abilities.

5. Develop your persona.
Some people want to be known as a hard-ass or a boss who never bends a rule. Others know that a reputation for kindness and a little flexibility will come back to them many times over. If people are saying how thoughtful you are as a boss or how decent you were when they had a personal crisis, your ability to recruit and retain talented people will grow. So will your ability to sell your services or open doors to new opportunities.

In announcing its survey results, AMA CEO Edward T. Reilly put it this way: “It’s the law of reciprocity: When a manager shows concern, his or her employees, in turn, support the manager. They do this by putting forth a maximum effort, being more dedicated to the organization, and by helping to achieve corporate goals.”

That’s kindness in action: Paying it forward and paying yourself too.

Check out the latest Career Insider eNewsletter - August 25, 2011.

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