Having spent the last 6 months on a contract where the middle management style left a lot to be desired, it was refreshing to read Peter Shankman’s new book, Nice Companies Finish First.
It was disheartening to see how an aggressive style of management bordering on bullying and intimidation can undermine organisational performance and output.
This approach typifies the first of Shankman’s 9 warning signs of ‘a hopeless jerk’ – ‘the know it all’ person unwilling to listen to feedback.
Shankman further highlights unhelpful traits and behaviours such as being uninterested in feedback or generating a cycle of crises to maintain the impression that a high tempo of activity is required.
As a member of a board of directors, if you start to see any of the 9 warning signs then it might be that you have a a problem developing in the senior leadership of the company.
Fortunately, Shankman’s insight has also identified 9 traits that can be exploited to develop a ‘company wide’ attitude of being nice, nice being a very effective way of creating a customer orientated culture and successful business.
These traits include:
• Enlightened self-interest – understanding that helping others can also help the leader and the company.
• Being accessible – allowing everyone to contribute with ideas and enthusiasm.
• Strategic listening – being open to feedback from everyone both inside and upside the company.
• Stewardship – look after the reputation of the business.
• 360 degree loyalty – commitment to the leaders, the team and the company.
• Glass half full attitude – a positive view without mindlessly following a set course of action despite the problems.
• Customer centric – focusing on the customer, the source of revenue and survival for the company.
• Merit based competitor – comprehensive by improving your performance independent of what the competition is doing.
• Give a damn – having integrity to do the right thing and have a reputation for such integrity.
Filled with examples that prove the value of each of these traits, Shankman’s argument for becoming a ‘Nice’ company is not only good sense, but good business.
In a media rich world, where a business’ reputation can pivot on a tweet or a viral blog post, there is certainly a need to guard a company’s good reputation. You may still remember the impact that United Airlines suffered when the YouTube video about them not replacing a broken guitar went viral.
United Breaks Guitars started as a lone voice on the Internet but became viral in a matter of days, exerting tremendous pressure on the senior management of United and impacting both their revenues and share price.
Nice companies finish first is an ‘example rich’ text that will help the leadership of any company focus on those key positive traits that with make a difference to both reputation and the bottom line.
With a simple set of traits to adopt and live, the ability of the leader and company to become ‘nice guys’ is relatively simple to start. It might take a lifetime to master, but Shankman’s book points out both the ‘how to’ and the ‘why’ of becoming a nice guy and a nice company.
It is a compelling argument and one that every CEO should consider.
Read it and apply the lessons to ensure your company too can exploit the positive traits of nice companies and the long-term rewards that can create.
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Dare to Aspire