In The Trenches

The power of nice

Published on February 14, 2017 Back to blog

When I was younger, I was often told that nice guys finish last. However, after being in the service business for more than 25 years – and watching how people respond to nice vs. the alternative – I completely disagree. Nice is always the better approach. While the opposite may provide some short-term gains, being nice is definitely much better for the long-term as it always leads to better work, better relationships and better results. 

That said, I know that it can be difficult to be nice at times – like this weekend, when I learned that the heat in my Maine cabin wasn’t working because the propane company didn’t fill the tanks. However, it is important to remember that being nice really does pay the greatest dividends. So, the next time you’re in a situation where you’re tempted to take the alternative route, here are a few tips to follow:

1. Take a deep breath

There are surely times that frustration and anxiety can take over. Your boss is breathing down your neck, the work you’re reviewing didn’t meet your expectations or, in my recent case, my cabin was freezing and pipes were at risk of bursting. Take a deep breath and remember that no one works well under duress. Try to stay calm.

2. Acknowledge the situation

In most cases, no one intended to cause anxiety or frustration. There may be root causes that will need to be addressed later (communications issues, unrealistic deadlines, an incompetent team member or a broken propane tank monitor), but now is not the time for that. Recognize something has gone awry and focus on the best way to move forward.

3. See the good

Generally speaking, people take pride in their work (this certainly holds true at Small Army). So, while negative feedback and potentially difficult requests may need to be conveyed, start with some positive feedback. Share what you like about the work. Recognize the effort that may have gone into it. Or, in my recent incident, thank them in advance for considering how to drive a huge truck of propane down a steep hill on a private road shortly after a snow storm. Everyone likes to hear positive feedback and doing so will make them much more open to doing what ultimately needs to get done.

4. Explain why

Perspective is important. Just saying “change blue to black,” “make the logo bigger,” or “get the f***ing propane delivered now!” doesn’t always sit well. People take feedback much better when they understand why you are giving it as opposed to just telling them what to do. Whether it be “because my boss won’t accept anything else,” “it’s not grammatically correct” or “my water pipes are going to burst,” it helps when they understand your perspective. 

5. Clean up and prevent it from happening again

As soon as the immediate concern is addressed, and stress levels are back to normal, address the root of the problem together. (Side note: unless someone died, please do not call it a “post-mortem.” Just a pet peeve.) Calmly work together to resolve outstanding issues (like “when will the monitor get fixed?” and “who’s paying the plumber’s bill?”) and adjust processes to prevent it from happening again. 

Fortunately, my propane tanks were filled on Saturday, the heat is working, and none of the pipes burst. Admittedly, my frustration/anger did reveal itself on a few occasions (hey, nobody’s perfect), but it was unquestionably the “nicer approach” that caused the job to get done, kept the relationship positive and will prevent this from happening again in the future. 

So, let’s all be nice and enjoy the benefits. 

Have a great day.

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners