I was recently taking a look, without much pleasure it must be said, at my bank statement when I realised that I had been contributing to a charity on a monthly basis. The charity was the Total Fitness gym to which I had been paying some £30 a month without using the facilities very much.
Accordingly and in the vein of economic austerity I wrote a letter closing my membership on the score of advancing maturity and explaining the other reasons.
A couple of days later I had a telephone call from my local gym to say, in effect, “what’s all this about, giving up your membership?” and suggesting that I go in to see her. As she was both persuasive and charming I went.
She said: “I understand that £30 a month is a lot so how does £5 sound?”
“That sounds very good” I said, “£5 a month is very fair”
“No, no” she said: “It’s £5 a YERA as you have reached the magic age!”
Slightly shocked I filled in the required form and as I was leaving she said: “I’m not sure that I can stop the draw down on the Direct Debit for this month but I’ll see what we can do”
Two days later Holly called again
“Good news” she said, “I have managed to stop the DD for this month, oh and by the way, as you passed the magic age in December 2010, we are refunding all the fees that you have paid since then, £590, and that will be in your bank account tomorrow” And it was.
What an extraordinary example of customer service and more so of customer care. It could even be construed as an act of considerable kindness and I told them of my gratitude and admiration.
Cynics might say that they did it for publicity reasons but really – would they do it on the assumption that I would tell the world about it to their advantage? I think not.
As it happens I am telling as many people as I can anyway because I am still amazed by what happened.
It was brought to mind again recently by the excellent “In Business” programme on BBC Radio 4 when presenter Peter Day interviewed several people who had experienced kindness being shown to them in their businesses for apparently altruistic reasons.
For example a well known author had written some advertising copy for a woman who was in a start-up business of marketing unusual and rare teas, and there was a taxi driver who had shown kindness to several deserving people without thought of reward.
Classic examples of old fashioned leadership invariably include plenty of loud shouting and a hard man approach to personal relationships. There is little doubt that more sensible and intelligent methods are taking the place of that authoritarianism.
The fact is that modern thinking leaders accept that everyone deserves the courtesy of being treated as human beings, that people are not just numbers or cannon fodder, but rather that they all have something of value to offer.
To show kindness without the thought of reward may be rare in business but if we are to grow away from the authoritarian neo- bullying approach to a more inclusive and sensitive form of leadership, then voluntary and indeed involuntary acts of kindness will and indeed should become a major part of the canon.
J M Barrie wrote:
“Always be a little kinder than necessary” and that encapsulates it for me.