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Can you motivate and lead a team
by being nice?

Yes, yes you can.

 

Having been in a leadership position for both large corporations and smaller private companies over the past 15 years, I have worked with an extremely wide variety of teams and have been accountable for many kinds of projects The secret to my success? Being human, for my teams, loyalty and respect trumped fear and intimidation every time.

Now that I have joined Post+Beam as a Partner/Director I am excited to be in a position where we have the power to lead a world-class company with the values I believe in and treat employees and clients with the respect they deserve.

Leading a team and motivating them to work at their highest level is no easy task. There are hundreds of management books published each year on this topic and most of them are complete garbage or they recycle the same old crap. I find it amusing to watch these other leaders try to figure out how they can control and manipulate their teams using tips and tricks from these books. There are some great leadership books out there that are trying to usher in the new age of leadership like Steve Zaffron & Dave Logan’s the three laws of performance but unfortunately books from curmudgeons like Donald Trump and Kevin O’Leary are still very popular. These guys thrive on being mean and intimidating and only care about money. If you do only care about money, please stop reading now and go watch another episode of The Celebrity Apprentice.

 

So how have I been successful as a leader by being nice?

 

First, let’s define what my meaning of nice is.

 

Nice is…

  • being approachable and available for your employees and clients even though it may not always be the best time for you. You may have to schedule it for later but always be there for them.
  • smiling and laughing as much as you possibly can at work. Having fun with your team is always productive as long as you are getting your work done.
  • not looking at everything as numbers. People are working for you and though they want to do a great job they also want to be appreciated and have a work/life balance. I always put my family and theirs first. I don’t want to be more successful by stealing time from my team’s families. This isn’t to say at times there won’t be overtime or crazy hours but that should be an exception and you should appropriately reward those that had you back during that time.
  • appreciating that your team is the one that makes you successful. I always defer project praise to the delivery team. If you have a big ego that constantly needs attention you should be a celebrity, not a leader.
  • being sincere and outright honest with your employees about their work and their performance. This means that poor performance is dealt with right away as well.
  • demanding excellence from your team because you know they can deliver it.

 

Nice isn’t…

  • being too timid to say something that has to be said or not listening to your team.
  • saying “Because I said so, and I’m the boss!”.
  • holding yourself above the team.
  • keeping a poor performer on your team.
  • being closed to the team’s ideas.

 

There are obviously many more points but you get a sense of what I mean. Now back to why I have been successful as a nice leader.

 

I am naturally motivated to help others whenever I can, and that really started me on my journey. I also realized that as a leader, I am in service to my team and not the other way around. That is a really simple concept that few truly embrace. There is a popular title floating around now that people use calling themselves a “Strategist”. This sounds great but also can cause a silo of thinking by having the leader alone in a room “strategizing” by themselves. You are always much stronger thinking as a team. As a leader you may make the final call on direction but the team inclusion makes you stronger and makes you question yourself and strengthen ideas. Inclusion also makes people feel appreciated and that they have a voice.

 

The statement, “I’ve got your back.”, is very strong for me. If your team really believes that you have their best interests at heart – and you do – they will be motivated to work hard and do most anything to help. They’ll have your back! Often people will say one thing but their actions are completely different from their words. I’m sure these leaders mean well, but they are not showing they have the integrity to be trusted by others. If you lose the trust of your team, you’re screwed.

 

“I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off”, barked Lt. Col. Hal Moore in the 2002 movie We Were Soldiers. Despite my opposition to the military command and control style of motivation, this speech has always stuck with me as I felt this is something I could transfer to my business leadership.

 

 

Ultimately I think I have been a pretty damn nice guy my whole life to those I have worked with and lead. I have been on very happy and high-performing teams. So either I have been very lucky, or maybe, just maybe, being a nice leader helped in part create an environment for these teams to be as amazing as they are. So yes, yes you can be a nice person and still be successful. Don’t be a Donald Trump, be human!

 

Darren Scott

 

Image credit for post: http://ramichi-hallowven.deviantart.com/art/Mel-Gibson-We-Were-Soldiers-Once-and-Young-288863696

 

 

3 Comments

  • Carrie

    I have had the privilege to have worked with Darren as a leader of the team I currently am a part of and we are a better team and humans because of this amazing leader. Brilliant article written by the best leader I’ve ever worked for. These are values Darren leads by and lives by.

  • Scott Coates

    Wonderful post Darren.

    A really nice list of traits that makes someone ‘nice’ and ‘not’. I think you hit the nail on the head and just saved me $20 from buying a book.

    Scott

  • Chris McElwee

    Thanks Darren, I’m very glad to have read this. It’s very much in-line with what I’ve heard from the people I know that have worked with you. It sounds like you have positively affected them, which has caused them to positively affect me. So, you know… thanks!

    I’m particularly interested in this topic because I understand that unless I want to stay in my current position forever, managing others is a strong possibility in the future. I worry that I’m too nice for that, as I don’t have it in me to employ these scaremongering tactics, or have the “I’m the boss, you’ll do what I say” mentality. I’ve always been concerned that I wouldn’t get the respect if I was who I want to be. It’s definitely nice to know that you can be a success doing it your way.

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