How do you build a friendly business? A Google programmer provides tips

Jon Skeet starts his talk at the TNW Conference with a warning: If you’re expecting a story about Google, it’s better to leave the room.

Skeet has worked in the internet company as a software developer for fourteen years and enjoys himself. So much so that his LinkedIn profile says recruiters do not need to approach him. “I hope to stay with Google until I retire,” said the Briton, wearing a black T-shirt that reads “All Rise.”

Skeet is also one of the best known names on StackOverflow, the site where programmers ask and answer questions. With a reputation rating of 1.3 million, he is number one. He has been answering thousands of questions from users since 2008.

And now he is on The Next Web, Friday afternoon in a bulging tent where the air conditioning is blazing. The conference revolves around entrepreneurs and investors, but Skeet does not want to talk about business. Not even about programming or lessons for leaders.

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“Many speakers here are talking about how you can make more money on your business,” says the eloquent Briton, who is also a pastor at his local Methodist church. “I want to tell you something that will probably only cost money, but it will make you feel better.”

The subject is capitalized on the screen: ‘Please.’ Skeet wants to use this podium to send a message to the tech leaders present: the importance of kindness. It’s different than being nice, he explains.

A nice person follows the unwritten rules of society about what is polite and what is not. Kindness is an interaction with another person. It requires empathy. You need to understand the other person to be kind.

Is anyone in the room hiring a chief kindness officer?

Skeet came across this topic by chance when he was to speak at another conference in 2015. He had no slides, he told the organization. That was fine. But what should be on the giant screen behind him? A picture of Skeet yourself?

“No, it’s bad enough to see me once, let alone twice,” he says with the necessary mockery. ‘I said: just put’ please ‘there.’

Over the years, Skeet has figured out what it means to be kind to colleagues, to customers, to subordinates. How can we build companies with kindness in the DNA? He covers five domains in his lecture.

1. Be kind to customers

Recently, Skeet saw one sensational tweet from a customer at Chewy, an American online pet food retailer. She had paid a lot of money to buy a large bag of dog food, but then the animal died. What to do with the rest of the expensive bites?

Chewy refunded the purchase and asked the customer to donate the bag to a local shelter. They also sent a bunch of flowers with a condolence card. The company has been doing this for years.

“I have no idea how to scale it up, but it’s about the mindset,” Skeet says. “Do what you can to be a good person.”

This is especially true for customer service, something Skeet has had very recent experience with. On the way to The Next Web, he left his laptop on the train.

He called NS and was thankfully quickly helped. He hopes to be able to pick up his computer at the station on his way back to England.
But with many companies, customer service is less well organized. Whether busy or not, there is often a standard bond with the text: ‘Due to high traffic, we can not respond to you as quickly as we would like.’

“If you’re wearing it and it’s not, change it,” shouts Skeet. ‘Put yourself in the customer’s place. When they call customer service, they often have a problem. ‘

2. To be friendly in the company

“Has anyone in the room hired a chief kindness officer?” asks Skeet. Zero hands go up the hall. He also did not encounter the position on LinkedIn. Still, according to Skeet, it’s a useful exercise to pretend you have one.

Ask yourself: are we kind enough during the application process? And during the performance interview? “A good leader’s job is to convey a difficult message in a friendly way,” says Skeet. ‘That someone comes smashed out of the conversation but feels respected and does not bear grudges.’

To be friendly in teams

Skeet once had a very good manager. He was more interested in him as a person than in his performance as an employee. “It meant a lot to me,” says the Briton.

Research shows that the best teams are not the smartest people. These are the teams where the members feel safe and valued. “Getting ahead requires discussion,” Skeet says. “But there must be room for that. Someone must dare and be able to express their opinion. ‘

He compares team balance to that in a chorus. If one person starts singing very loudly and drowns out the rest, it does not sound for a meter. The same principle applies to working with other people.

In bad teams, no one says anything when a person has the highest word. In good teams, someone says something about it and gives other people a chance to speak up. In excellent teams, everyone shares the same idea of ​​what normal behavior is. Communication is non-verbal; a little body language is all it takes to get the discussion back on track.

4. Friendly product

Skeet still regularly encounters it on StackOverflow: someone posts a picture of a homework assignment and asks for the solution. There are zero answers. ‘Logical. Then you are not kind to the site. ‘

How do you increase kindness on a platform? I look forward to the solutions

According to Skeet, this shows why it is difficult to build a friendly product. It’s not just about the interface or the ease of use. “Many of you build a platform with a community. It’s hard to teach a community to be kind to each other.”

Skeet says more research needs to be done on this. There are countless studies on how to moderate content on the web and how to counteract bullying. “But how do you reinforce kindness on a platform?” asks Skeet. “I look forward to the solutions.”

5. Be kind as a leader

An order from the top does not work: “So from today on, we should all be nice.” Employees see how you lead. Therefore, lead by example and be kind to colleagues, personal assistants and other staff.

Recognize that employees are people with their own lives. It really does make a difference, ‘says Skeet.

So do not act like Elon Musk and demand that everyone come to work in the office. Instead, give everyone a day off because they have been through a tough time.

‘We do that at Google. And it comes straight from the top, from Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google, ed.) ‘, Says Skeet. “Within Google, we call them Sundar Days.”

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