'Nice' Management Often Mistaken For 'Good' Management

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It's time to challenge the assumption that nice equals good.

Many years ago, when I was in management, I had an employee confront me in my office at the end of the day. He accused me of not being nice. He told me that I was unfair because I had high expectations of him. I told him that I agreed with him: I did have high expectations of him. I told him that I'd be glad to discuss it more, but, before I did, I had one question that I wanted him to think about over the evening. The question was this: would you really want me to have low expectations of you?

As a leader, my role was to help my team achieve their true potential; to help them be the most that they could be. I saw it that way for two simple reasons: 1) if my team didn't achieve their highest potential, we would be unable to achieve our corporate goals; and 2) if, as a leader, I didn't help them fulfill their potential, then I would be failing them as individuals. Other leaders in the organization told me that I was putting too much pressure on myself and setting too high of a standard, too high of a goal. Is there such a thing as too high of a goal?

What I know is that I achieved better numbers than any other leader, I had an intensely loyal team with virtually no turnover, customers who loved us, and a working environment that made Mondays something I looked forward to.

As a leader, we are not there to be nice. As a leader, we are there to lead our teams to the greatest results possible and to help them reach their full potential. That requires that we be willing to challenge, provoke and support the team and we have to have the courage to be honest in our feedback. I would make the argument that as leaders we are cheating our teams if we are simply being nice. Nice will not produce high performing individuals and teams.

Here are nine things that you can do to truly maximize the potential of your team:

1. Be bold in your goal setting. Let your team know that you are setting aggressive, bold goals for them because you believe that it's possible for them.

2. Be committed to the results and to the team. Having set the audacious goals, demonstrate to (don't tell) the team that you are committed to achieving those goals. Does the team have the training, the tools and the support that they need to reach the goals? Be willing to challenge the way that things have always been done in the past.

3. Help the team see the value of their contribution. Help them discover how they are making a difference.

4. Believe it. If you want to be a leader who has a team who accomplishes amazing things then you have to be the type of leader who believes amazing things are possible.

5. Evaluate your communication. Are you unknowingly communicating to your team that you don't expect that much from them? We tend to get what we expect.

6. Assess your feedback. Are you specific and honest in your feedback?

7. Show the team the standard by which you judge yourself. One reason I could expect so much from my team is that I allowed them to see the standards that I used to judge myself, which were even higher than the ones I used to evaluate them. Interestingly, they began judging themselves by the standards I set for myself, not the ones I had set for them. (Note: This is not to say that I had low standards for them. I thought the standards I had for them were pushing the limits; my key point here is that, given the choice, THEY CHOSE the higher standard of performance for themselves.)

8. Show them that you care. Teams respond when they know that the leader cares. It seems so simple, yet it is so often missed. We cannot have what we do not give. If we want respect, we have to give it. If we want loyalty, we have to give it.

9. Don't cheat them by settling for good enough. When I was a small child, I was diagnosed with catastrophic speech problems. My mother refused to accept that diagnosis. Instead she was relentless in working with me. I spent countless hours working with her to learn to form words (often countless hours learning to form the same word!). One day, Millie, a friend of my mother's, was visiting, and I was trying to ask my mother a question and I couldn't quite get it out. Millie asked my mother, "Do you know what she's trying to say?" My mother said yes, she did. Millie said "Well, then isn't that good enough?" My mother said "No. You didn't know what she was saying and neither would anyone else. No one will ever listen to her if she can't speak-and I won't cheat her that way." I wonder if I'd be a professional speaker today had she been nice and allowed me to settle for good enough?

Being nice allows us-and our teams-to be complacent and unchallenged. Given the choice, I will always choose the person who has my best interest at heart, who believes in what I can achieve, and is willing to work along side me to achieve it. That, to me, is good.

Bobbi Kahler is a professional speaker, author and consultant specializing in helping leaders build winning teams in sales and service. She is the resident of Kahler Consulting Group, The Customer Advocate Company, and can be reached at bobbi kahlerconsulting.com

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