In December of each year, the words “naughty” and “nice” are often mentioned, especially when parents are reminding their children that Santa Claus has a list with these labels. While being on the “nice” side of the list may get a tot more presents, it frequently causes leaders unwanted headaches.
There’s nothing wrong with being nice, and it’s a huge asset in most situations. Building relationships with customers and forging new ones with prospects requires some degree of niceness or the ability to fake nice really well. And I believe that most people aren’t faking.
Being a nice person becomes a liability for leaders when they engage in Employee Neglect, the workplace equivalent of child neglect. Employee Neglect occurs when leaders:
- Are not consistently holding team members accountable.
- Justify or make excuses when expectations are not being met.
- Delay or avoid reprimands or terminations that are prudent and necessary.
Engaging in Employee Neglect keeps people from reaching their true potential and hampers their ability to make a full contribution in jobs. Yet, managers are often inconsistent in requiring employees to consistently meet or exceed their quotas and commitments. Why? It does not feel nice to hold someone else accountable.
Nice Person Syndrome is cunning, common, and contagious since, in the moment, avoiding the discomfort of holding someone accountable feels much more comfortable. Yet, this comes back to bite everyone involved－the employee is not on track, the authority of the leader is undermined, and the company is not getting what it paid for.
So, what’s a nice guy, or gal, to do? You can’t turn off being a nice person, nor should you. The first thought of a nice person, more often than not, will almost always focus on all the reasons to avoid accountability conversations. So be it. You are not responsible for your first thought; you simply must take the next right action. Changing your thinking is difficult, if not impossible. However, we are in complete control of the choices we make and the actions we take.
Being nice isn’t naughty, as long as leaders remember that the nicest thing they can do is to firmly hold people responsible for getting done what matters most.
This Week’s Radical Accountability Activating Action: When you find yourself hesitating, especially when it comes to holding someone accountable, ask yourself, “What is the next right thing that I should do?” Then, take that action immediately before your thinking gets in the way.
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