Being too nice: this sounds like a really great problem to have. However as a leader to be a nice and honest person is a given. So, is the skill about finding the right amount of "nice"? And to not fall into the trap of the "don't take this personally, but ... <enter lame excuse here>? See, in other cultures, being nice is never about polite deception or being a doormat, it's about being direct, honest and truthful. This skill has been lost in today's politically charged corporate culture: It's now being taken for aggression. How did we end up here ? -By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
San Francisco, <04/17/14> - I am seeing today so-called "change agents' who use the same playbook after being let go from large corporations as the one they used to get to the top inside those corporations. And they have the audacity of telling the world that they're now different! Seriously ? And the "sure tell" test is to be honest and direct with them - they get offended! Works wonders. My advice: don't fall into the trap of the "reverse passive aggressive" behavior of some, who will tell you that you are not "nice" with them, just when you are doing your best to be direct, honest and truthful. Just ignore them. For they are the essence of the passive aggressive political animal. Further, "polite deception" is worse than lies - it's a complete waste of time. So let me summarize: there is no such thing as being too nice, and as a leader, thrive to be truthful, honest and direct - and just let go of those who don't get it.
Leaders are placed under a tremendous amount of pressure to be relatable, human and … nice. Many yield to this instinct, because it feels much easier to be liked. Few people want to be the bad guy. But leaders are also expected to make the tough decisions that serve the company or the team’s best interests. Being too nice can be lazy, inefficient, irresponsible, and harmful to individuals and the organization.
I’ve seen this happen numerous times. A few years ago, a senior staff member of mine made the wrong hire. This can happen to anyone, and the best way to remedy the situation is to address it quickly. Despite my urging to cut the tie, this staff member kept trying to make it work. While I laud the instinct to coach, fast forward two months later, and we were undergoing a rancorous – and unnecessary – transition process. There’s a key lesson here for any leader. Nice is only good when it’s coupled with a rational perspective and the ability to make difficult choices.
Here are a few other other recognizable scenarios where being nice isn’t doing you – or anyone – any favors:
Turning to polite deception. You’ve been in these brainstorming meetings – everyone is trying to hack a particular problem, and someone with power raises a ridiculous idea. Instead of people addressing it honestly, brows furrow, heads nod like puppets on strings, and noncommittal murmurs go around. No one feels empowered to gently suggest why that particular idea won’t work. At my company, rejecting polite deception is a big part of how we do business. When something isn’t right, we call each other out on it respectfully, then and there, without delay. Why? It’s not helpful to foster an everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality; you have to earn the honors to get the honors.
The long linger. Sometimes a hire just won’t cut it in a certain role. It might seem easier to keep an employee in place rather than to resolve the mismatch – but it actually is not. Resist the temptation to prolong confrontation, to see if things will get better. It is more of a disservice to let someone flounder, especially when it’s clear that he or she just isn’t hitting the mark. Be kind and communicate clearly, but don’t be nice. Be surgical about it. Make the clean cut. Help the person transition somewhere he or she can succeed. Handling employee issues immediately helps your culture and productivity – over time, you’ll attract employees with similar values and convictions.
Don’t be a doormat. When you’re too nice – to suppliers who can’t deliver on time, to colleagues who don’t do their work, to customers who refuse to pay – you’re actually letting others take advantage of you and your business. When you’re overly generous with your allowances for others, you create a fertile atmosphere for contempt to spread. Imagine the reactions of your most talented, focused, and motivated employees as they watch lackluster coworkers get pass after pass. Anger and resentment take root, morale plummets, and turnover starts to go up, up, up. Think of how loyal customers will react if they see how easy it is for others to take advantage of your services. Your reputation will surely suffer. These problems become more difficult to solve as they pile up. You don’t need to be severe to be respected, but you do need to hold your organization to certain standards — and you must be firm about people meeting them. Setting rules will help you when decisive action is needed. No more delays, no demurring, no debating.
Failing the introspection test. Are you too nice to yourself? Introspection is a powerful leadership tool, but we often forget to use it. When you ask yourself what behaviors hold you and your team back, you can recalibrate your leadership style for the better. When you give employees the space to give you the hard truths, without fear of repercussion, you’ll get valuable perspective and make a giant leap forward in maturing as a leader.
Of course, this doesn’t mean managers get a free pass to be disrespectful, cruel, or a bully in the workplace. There’s a world of difference between being an effective leader with high expectations and dealing with problem after problem caused by milquetoast management. Beware of confusing being nice – or being liked – with being a good leader.
[Read More Here > Thank You HBR 04/07/14]
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> I am the Head of Product and Head of AI at Sikka Software.