Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"The Power of Nice"

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval have not only built The Kaplan Thaler Group, one of the nation's fastest-growing advertising agencies, but also published two books. Their latest: The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.

The Kaplan Thaler team applied the "page 69 test" to their book and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Power of Nice highlights an interesting transition in our book. Up until this point, we had mostly been discussing how easy it is to be nice — how even a small offering like a cupcake or a compliment can yield huge dividends in the long run.

But on page 69, we discuss a time when it was actually very difficult for us to be nice. One of our employees had a very bad temper and frequently offended co-workers and clients. We were forced to sit him down and tell him the painful truth: His anger problem was the reason he’d been fired from every job he’d had and, if he didn’t enroll in an anger-management course, was the reason he’d be fired from this one, too.

It was a very tense moment, and frankly we didn’t feel very nice when we were saying this. But this is one of the primary misunderstandings about niceness, and a central theme of our book. Doing the nice thing does not mean shying away from conflict and keeping all feathers unruffled. It would have been easier — and on the surface seem nicer — to keep our lips zipped about our problems with his behavior. We could have even exuded a lot of fake, surface charm when we fired him — telling him it wasn’t his fault, that it was just a budgetary thing, etc.

But this wouldn’t have been nice—it would have been wimpy, and kind of dishonest. The truth was that unless we had this difficult conversation, our employee would never get the chance to correct his behavior. The fact that we request that he enroll himself in an anger-management course was the key to making this a nice exchange. We didn’t just criticize; we gave him a roadmap to the solution. This is a theme we expanded on in a later chapter called, “Yes, Your Way to the Top.” As the meeting adjourned, the final word was not “No, we don’t like your behavior” but “Yes, we want to work with you.”

Today, our colleague has made great strides in dealing with his anger, and continues to be a very loyal and valuable member of our team.
Read an excerpt from The Power of Nice.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.