A friend of mine posted a question on Facebook asking, “Are you nice?” Actually, she was much more creative in her ask. She said, “Endangered Species: Nice people. (Are you an endangered species, too?)”
My answer was: “I’m told I’m a nice person but really, what I strive for is to be kind.”
When I was editing my book, the kindness shown to me by people I respect wasn’t always nice. It was benevolent and considerate with the intent to make things better. There were times when I silently raged against the feedback that felt critical and demoralizing. But in the end, it made the book better. I appreciated friends who were willing to step up and tell me things I didn’t want to hear but needed to know. I learned a lot from the experience and, now more than ever, I strive to be as brave and kind as those friends who helped me edit my book.
What High Trust Leaders share is a willingness to voice their own opinions even when others disagree.
Being pleasant and agreeable is a trait you want to have in your team members but as a leader people must trust that they will get the real goods from you, even when it is unpleasant and not ‘nice’. I find it interesting to note that, although agreeableness is positively correlated with teamwork, it is negatively correlated with leadership success.
The leader who is displeased with a worker’s performance must be strong enough to let them know in very plain language what they need to do and the consequences if they don’t do it. Wanting to be seen as a popular and nice boss is the surest way to fail. Rather than saying, “I think you could do better.” (Nice) Say, “Here is what needs to be improved and we’re giving you x amount of time to do it. If you don’t improve by x, you’ll be fired.”
My good friend Rich DiGirolamo is a funny irreverent Speaker/Trainer/Coach on leadership and team engagement. He uses humor to get across tough messages in a way that allows people to hear what they need to hear. Even his voice mail message is funny: “Hey, this is Rich. If you’ve called to say Hi, make some plans, have some fun, or just laugh a little bit, then please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you are calling to whine, moan or complain, then I’m positively certain that there are others in your network who would much rather hear from you.” Rich knows that humor is often the kindest way to show people what they need to improve. What he says isn’t always nice but he’s always kind. (Click here to learn more about Rich.)
Quick Way to Lose Trust
After managing a few offices, I can tell you that one of the quickest ways to lose trust is to talk about someone behind their back. As an HR manager or an office manager reporting to the owners or senior leaders, it sometimes felt that my job ONLY involved talking about people when they weren’t present. I made sure that whatever I said about people, I also said to them, and they knew what would be passed up the chain. Saying something nice to people when you are in front of them, and then criticizing them in public, not only destroys trust but creates a reputation as a hypocrite.
What you say about others says more about you than them.
And, to quote a favorite song of mine, “In the end, only kindness matters.”