I’m not suggesting that you can’t be demanding. I’m not even remotely suggesting that you shouldn’t have knock down, drag out productive disagreements. And, I’m not intimating that you should be a softie, a cupcake, a cream puff, or that you should let anyone walk all over you (ever).
But there is a difference between being resolute and demanding, and just being mean, unpleasant, foul, or abusive.
Here’s a couple observations I’ve made recently.
People Know You Care About Them
Where managers and leaders are mean, foul, or bully their people, they have the kind of serious cultural issues that prevent results. Where managers and leaders are nice to their people, they produce better results, they have higher engagement, and they have lower turnover.
This doesn’t mean that nice managers and leaders are not demanding; they are. But it’s the manner in which they are demanding that makes the difference. They are pleasant, supportive, and they have the “servant leader” mindset.
If people believe you care about them, they tend to work differently.
Think back over your experiences. You’ve never seen a great leader treat people at lower levels of the organizational chart poorly.
People Are Engaged
The last decade, with it’s two major recessions, may have been the most stressful period in a Century. Business changed dramatically.
I used to believe that there are times when force is necessary to getting results. The more urgently you need some result, the more important it is that everyone do his or her part. But force causes resistance . . . and resentment.
Persuasion and inclusion are more powerful. They create a sense of ownership, a sense of purpose and meaning, and a greater commitment. Consensus doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree; it means that everyone is considered. And it produces a higher level of engagement.
What if people resist? What if they simply refuse do what is necessary? Part company, but be nice while doing so—you are being watched.
People Follow Your Lead
Want your people to be nice to your clients, vendors, each other? Want them to assume everyone has good intentions, that it’s not their lack of trying or stubbornness causing problems? Then be nice.
As a leader, you set the tone. People are going to look for you to understand the boundaries of acceptable behavior in your organization. Being a leader doesn’t give you a license to set the boundaries differently for you (or the rest of your leadership team).
People are watching. They aren’t going to do what you say; they’re going to do what you do.
Being Nice Is Free
Nice is free. It doesn’t cost a penny more, but it’s a tremendous, results-producing investment in your company and your team.
Being nice doesn’t mean that you lack candor, that you can’t be demanding, and that you can’t engage in productive arguments and disagreements. It means that you cannot be mean, that you have to care about people, and that you have to be decent and treat people well.