Always Lead With Kindness. . .And 5 Other Lessons I Learned on Being Happy at Work

Kathleen Henson (2)

By Kathleen Henson

Reflecting on what has made me truly happy the past 14+ years owning and running HC, the same things seem to come to mind – being inspired, having flexibility/choices and surrounding myself with people who I truly care about. I was recently invited to appear on NBC’s Today Show to talk about finding happiness “on the job,” and I came up with these six principles that have worked really well for me as I’ve juggled being a wife and daughter, becoming a new mom and then raising 5 awesome kids while simultaneously juggling a busy – but very fulfilling – career.

Be Your Authentic Self – Find a career that suits your strengths and your lifestyle. I have been blessed to have found success within an industry that perfectly matches my God-given talents – networking and connecting cool people, being creative and brainstorming big ideas, negotiating/selling strategic concepts and talking for a living (yes, I got in trouble for talking in class when I was in grade school…and middle school…and high school). When I found a job that celebrated and truly allowed me to be…well, me, I felt the freedom to express myself and found I could make a good living at it. So, find a career that makes you feel good being the real you. There’s only one of you out there!

Always Lead With Kindness – In our hard-charging business, it is commonplace that people are not always the nicest. I have decided to take the opposite approach and always lead with kindness, and I hire people who feel the same way. It actually takes the same amount of energy to be kind and thoughtful (okay, maybe sometimes it takes a little bit more effort if you’re in a tough situation), but I guarantee you that it always feels much better than being harsh, rude or abrupt. You can be straight-to-the-point and honest, but if you mix in a little love and happiness lots of business still gets done, and you feel good – and the other person does too.

Practice Gratitude in All Situations – It’s easy to be thankful when the good stuff happens, but it’s just as important to be thankful when the bad stuff happens (insert record screech sound effect). Yep, it’s true! You might not know why the bad situation is happening to you in the moment, but I guarantee you there will be some blessing down the road that comes from it. Enough bad things have happened to me in my 22 years of working in PR to know that there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – even when you think it’s going to rain forever. I have seen, so many times, how a bad client situation, a tough employee departure or a loss of a new business opportunity has resulted in establishing more client trust, a chance for a new perspective to join the team or an even bigger piece of business popping up right around the corner. So, always be thankful, reflect on the positives and know that there’s a bigger plan for you – you just might not know it at the time.

Don’t Try To Control Everything – I used to try to mitigate risks for every situation and practice, in my head, 10 different scenarios for how to ensure success, but I’ve come to realize that it’s easier to open my eyes each morning and say, “God, what do you have in store for me today?” That’s it. Don’t try and solve the world’s problems (or your clients’) or feel like you have to conquer the world, just try to get done as much as you possibly can in the day you have, and do everything to the best of your abilities – and know you did your best. You can’t make everything go your way and you can’t always control what’s going to happen in PR – so roll with it, and as I always say, “Act Like You Can.”

Find Joy Outside of Work and Bring It With You – Most companies operate with a focus first on productivity and output and then their employees’ personal well-being outside of the office. I truly believe that if my team is happy outside of work, they simply bring that joy TO the office and our many clients.  Like kindness, joy is contagious and I think HC does a good job of spreading it everywhere. I started HC to be a good mom first and happened to learn that I could be good at being a PRoud mom, too. I want everyone I work with to find their joy outside of work. We recently launched our “Random Acts of HC” campaign to spread kindness everywhere, and that is what life is all about.

Seek Change If You Aren’t Happy – You only get one life and you need to live it to the fullest and with as much joy and gratitude as possible. If you aren’t happy in your current situation – whatever that might be – have the courage to find your happiness through embracing change. It was VERY scary for me to leave my “big agency” job and start HC in 2001 with a small baby at home, a new mortgage and another baby on the way (gulp!); but, I decided to take a chance on myself and seek out a solution that would match my lifestyle, and I’ve never looked back with any regrets. I have tried to create a place where HCers remain happy and know they are appreciated and loved – that was my way of spreading my own change forward – I created my own PR utopia.

Kathleen Henson is founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, a highly creative and fast-growing boutique public relations agency based in Chicago. This article was posted yesterday on HC’s blog and it appears here with Kathleen’s enthusiastic permission. #alwaysleadwithkindness

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