In many cultures building a strong relationship is a requirement for doing business. This is a natural motivational driver for somewhere helping people is a priority.
“Bless him! Jack is so nice! He’s such a lovely person…” was how people described Jack, a coaching client. Jack was always concerned with maintaining harmony and getting along with people, even if it involved contorting himself to fit in.
Jack was overly nice. He valued people and their feelings more than achieving goals and tasks. He strived to keep people happy and create harmony. This had limited his success in business.
I have to confirm that a friendly approach creates connectivity and builds empathy. It works extremely well if you want to increase morale, improve communication or offer emotional support to someone with personal challenges.
Unfortunately, Jack was a people-pleaser and relied solely on this approach to leadership. He was too concerned with keeping things harmonious. His philosophy was:
If people like me, then they’ll want to work with me.
He was always worried about getting along with people. Looking after others were his priority and he would always move towards people that he perceived needed help.
Being helpful, supportive and focusing on positive relationships is a strength. If this strength is overplayed though, it can have a negative effect on relationships leading to poor performance and mediocre results.
Being overly nice contorted Jack’s lens for doing business effectively: He would lower the price to prospective clients and was always giving his time or services away for free. He was seen as “a soft touch.” He would not give feedback to his staff in fear of upsetting them. He would spend time worrying about whether people liked him or not. Work took second place to his feelings.
Being “nice” takes a lot of energy.
Here is how to recognize when being nice is too much:
1. You’re too concerned about keeping harmony: You shy away from confrontation or difficult conversations. You’re always stepping in to keep things sweet and cool. Looking after others is your sole priority.
2. You avoid giving feedback: You neglect to give honest and open feedback to your clients and staff. They can’t improve because you keep the information to yourself. You focus on giving praise and rarely offer advice on how to improve. Others may feel that mediocrity is tolerated.
3. You worry what people think of you: You are more concerned about getting along with people, sometimes to the detriment of the task in hand! Task accomplishment becomes a potential blindside. You worry about what people might/might not be thinking about you. This becomes your priority and distorts your thinking. You constantly replay in your mind whether they like you or not, maybe you upset them when you said something.
4. You’re too friendly in a crisis: Instead of taking the lead and providing clarity and direction, you are too focused on keeping everyone happy and maintaining the welfare of others. You play down the situation and people are left to figure it out for themselves. Others may see you as a soft, wasting time, unfocused, and thinking too much about people when it is not the key issue here.
5. If you like me, then you’ll buy from me: You falsely believe that if someone likes you then they’ll buy from you. So you contort yourself to be nice in the hope that they will step forward to work with you. You give things away (time, energy, services) in the hope that they will sign up or come on board with your idea. This is playing small because you constantly underplay your value. They may like you, but they will not buy if they cannot see the real value you are hiding from them.
Business is not about being nice, it is about serving people at the highest level and helping them to achieve the results that they want.
It is not about getting people to like you (the fact is that some people will not like you!)
Having empathy is different from being nice. Empathy enables you to care for the whole person: their feelings and their goals. You serve others best by moving between focusing on the value of the relationship and the value of the task. Moving towards the goal involving people along the way.
Be yourself, stand in your power and lead by balancing the emotional needs of others through task accomplishment and direction.
Balance is the key.