Pizza is kind to our souls. It brings smiles to faces and warmth to bellies. It evokes the precious nostalgia of childhood. It unifies people around a table — and in my case, within a restaurant community. 

As the founder of the Pizza Loves Emily/Emmy Squared Restaurant Group, it’s important that I foster a workspace for my employees that is built on the values I hold true in life (quite literally, my name is on the window). So, the fundamental ingredient in my recipe for leadership is kindness. Plain and simple. 

As business owners, corporate team members, and leaders, we get to choose how we want our organizations to feel. I want the place I work every day to be as warm as possible, to be overflowing with kindness. Why? Because why not. Why not try to build organizational cultures that embrace the human spirit? Why not build workplace rituals that are embedded in positivity, praise, and contemplation? Why not see the people that work with us as humans first and employees second?

A kind workplace feels safe — it’s one where community members feel valued. A kind workplace is one where community members are not deemed arbitrary “employees” in the sterility of hegemony. For so long, the norm has been that strong business equates to the calcified and buttoned-up gravity of the corporate world. But, no. We are in a new age with new opportunities; we can redefine our work cultures and root them in emotional intelligence. And when we lead through that lens, we lead through kindness — and kindness breeds welcoming energy that doesn’t just build companies, but villages.  

In the workplace, we can be kind in many ways. Here are three simple pillars to focus on:

Build relationships

Kindness can percolate when we smile and say hello to everyone who works for us and with us. We can give compliments. We can ask questions of those in our employ about the wholeness of their lives. Nothing builds a better workplace environment or supports staff retention more than this honest, simple deed.

Communicate peacefully

This means checking our tone and leaving aggression on the doorstep. Even better, we can lean into the qualities of gentleness and patience when speaking with others. We can open up our ears to listen, and wait until others are finished speaking before we insert our own voices. Most importantly, we can foster kindness by not living in the land of assumptions. When we assume other people’s motives or thoughts, we stop ourselves from communicating clearly and directly. 

Empower others

In a world where we are programmed to see fault in others, we can choose to turn towards the positive. Take a look at your team: What is someone doing right? What were you impressed by today? Who is growing and achieving in new ways that are worth recognition? When we can direct our methodologies towards mentorship and restorative discipline practices as opposed to enculturated punitive systems, we develop kinder principles of bolstering others. 

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  • Emily Hyland

    Co-Founder of Pizza Loves Emily Restaurant Group

    Emily Hyland is the co-founder of Pizza Loves Emily restaurants group where all pizzas wood-fired and Detroit come to life alongside the Emmy Burger.  Emily is a yin and restorative yoga teacher; she is highly interested in the therapeutic aspects of the practice and especially enjoys working with those who seek to integrate breath into mindful, everyday living. She is a founding teacher at Juniper, in Prospect Heights. Emily is also a published poet whose work has appeared in the Brooklyn Review, Sixfold, and Stretching Panties. Her most recent manuscript, “The Storming Year,” is based on her experiences as a public school English teacher and instructional coach in NYC. When Emily is not slicing pizza or pouring wine into people's mouths, she can be found on the yoga mat and snuggling up to her three beautiful cats: Joy, Grandma, and Wheelie.