NOTE: Apologies! The editor published this post prior to final corrections being made. Please, discard the previous and read this one!
A couple years ago, I was delighted to be invited to help lead an Employee Resource Group called ForWARD (For Women’s Advancement, Recognition and Development) at my company General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). You can imagine that in the world of information technology professionals, we still have a lot of work to do to bring diversity of thought into this historically male dominated industry.
Our mission is to empower and advocate for women within GDIT. Our goal in doing this is threefold:
• Cultivate women professionals and leaders by providing a forum for professional development and growth.
• Increase recruitment of talented women while boosting our competitive posture, business development and brand.
• Give back to the community through workshops and programs for the advancement of girls in science, technology and leadership
Like countless organizations, once COVID-19 hit, many of the events formally hosted onsite pivoted to an online venue, making it also a bit of a shift from talking about inclusion issues — to exploring ways to support the health and well-being of our employees.
Pre-COVID, I had dabbled in learning more about positive psychology with my sister who is actively exploring the topic and now getting her Masters! In June, I hosted a ForWARD Coffee Talk Series: Kindness Rocks! The basic purpose and format of the ZOOM event was to help employees learn more about one dimension of positive psychology related to random acts of kindness. The session opened with greetings from the ForWARD leaders and with opening remarks from subject matter experts. We provided context to baseline participants about the positive thinking methodology, followed by a conversation about positivity and random acts of kindness.
I invited my sister’s colleague Dr. Shira R. Levi who is a trainer, School Psychologist, Registered Psychology Associate, children’s book author, and Positive Psychology expert. She and my sister collaborate to train educators about the positivity mindset to increase student aptitude and achievement. These same principles have been documented to increase workforce productivity, so we partnered up to offer this session to the employees at GDIT. Shira and Mary began the session with an overview and asking participants to share via the ZOOM chat who had recently been a recipient of a random act of kindness. We watched, in beautiful silence, as a ton of examples poured in over chat!
Shira then asked participants how reading these acts made them feel and explained the chemistry of the brain that boosts positivity and how this can increase a person’s ability to solve problems and contribute to working solutions more effectively. We followed the introduction with asking participants to share additional ways they have shown kindness or created positivity resulting in an incredible list of ideas.
Some examples of acts of kindness included:
• I am eight months pregnant, and Covid has been a bit tough on us. Our neighbors have surprised us by going to get us groceries and food weekly!
•My daughter encouraged me to practice mindfulness and to start using an app to help.
• Someone I didn’t know bought me coffee as we stood in line.
• I got a gift card for dinner with a thank you note.
• My sister sent me a painting done by my godson for me.
• I just received words of gratitude for leading my company.
• I received a $50 gift card in the mail from an unknown sender. Dealing with many stress factors, it definitely made me smile!
• Someone made me a collection of handmade cards.
• People have been checking in on my emotional state.
• My son and daughter-in-law sent me cookies from Hawaii.
• Neighbors and I bought each other flowers to plant out front.
• A friend sent me special tea and a teacup to lift my spirits.
The conversations covered many more examples. The results being participants discovered new ways to remain positive and experience unadulterated happiness in the new now.
Here are a few wrap up comments:
• This was great. Appreciate all the work that was put into this.
• My first time and definitely will look forward to another session!
• Thanks everyone, very uplifting!
• Great start to the day. Thank you!!
• I am so glad I attended today. I got permission to skip my daily review call.
• Thank you so much, I truly enjoyed it.
• Thank you everyone – this was amazing.
• Great conversation! Let’s do kindness all day long.
• I can’t wait for the next one!
• This was very helpful, thanks!
• This was enjoyable, thank you!
Post session the conversation and examples of kindness and positivity were continued and are still ongoing.
Unfortunately, the positivity rates of COVID-19 continue to rise making exercises and events like this even more critical! There are many ways to support each other during tough times. Our team was inspired by family and friends who make our company and really the world a better place one conversation or one act of kindness at a time. A valuable and replicable session worth sharing, I am very happy to be sharing it here on Emmanuel Voices.
More information is below including additional resources for anyone that would like to bring more kindness, positivity and increased productivity into our respective worlds.
Here you go!
From The Greater Good Science Center, University of CA , Berkley:
— Rachel Kliewer, August 2020
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog