Corporate America Goes to Kindergarten: Why Being "Nice" Could Get You To the Next Level. Really.
Now I usually do not get all dewy-eyed about the virtues of "nice"ness; in fact, I usually hate the word (just what is "nice" anyway?). But the verdict is in: nice makes might. Or so says Marshall Goldsmith, counselor and coach to the high and mighty in the corporate world. That's right. Big CEOs with bigger private jets are paying six figures to hear what I'm about to tell you, and what you maybe could figure out for yourself if you really thought about it, and what you ought to have learned at your mother's knee: that leadership involves putting the golden rule into practice: listen, temper your ego, and resist the urge to demonstrate your wonderfulness at every turn. Of course, you have to be Marshall Goldsmith to get paid to say this stuff. But don't get me wrong, far be it from me to diss anybody's gig (glass houses and all that--I'm a headhunter, remember?). Anyway, I think he's got a point worth saying.
Goldsmith's book, with the snappy, most-modern, haiku-like title "What Got You Here Won't Get Your There" (hey, at $24.00 a bargain over his usual fee!) lists 20 lessons for staying at the top, and then getting to the "tippy-top" (what else should I call it?). Never fear! My read of Goldsmith boils them down down to just five. You can read all 20 on your own time. Here we go:
1) Get over yourself. Stop trying to INCESSANTLY prove how wonderful, brilliant and sexy you are (that's what blogging is for). Subordinates, superiors and laterals alike really could use a break. Yes, yes, we must learn to promote ourselves, but that doesn't mean that every single conversation needs your last word, not every memo needs your little extra edits, not every proposal needs your revisions. Be judicious, in other words, with your glow: not letting the other children play and shine once in a while destroys morale and makes you look like the Machiavellian narcissist you really are (not that there's anything wrong with that).
2) Don't be such a jerk. Yeah, this needs to be said. As Goldsmith so succinctly puts it, the question is NOT "It is true?" but "is it worth it?" Interesting.
3) Try being positive. Um, this is more pleasant for everyone. It is amazing the capacity for humans (sorry, in my experience, especially lawyers) to believe that their negative take on all things is actually interesting, impressive or otherwise tolerable. It is not. Your secretary knows this, but s/he is paid not to say it. Thus, try to make affirmative statements. It won't break your face.
4) Grow up. Mature adults do not blame others for their failures, act appropriately by not playing favorites and not sucking up and actually apologize when they err. Amazing, but true. They also realize that supreme "self-actualization" is the sister-city of megalomania.
5) The past is the past. Get over it and move on.
I somehow get the feeling that if I had written the book, it might not have played so well. Regardless, the important thing is that after all my railing against the lack of management sophistication in the law firm world (here and here ), it turns out the regular corporate guys are similarly challenged in the "act like a grown up" department. Just like us.
The upshot of all this is that these seemingly innocuous tips really can, and really have, made an impact on the careers of high-powered managers. Apparently you can go far by running rough-shod over others, but when you get to the upper levels of management, it suddenly matters to actually exhibit real leadership skills. Just like in kindergarten.