The Power of Nice: How to conquer the business world with kindness
Written By: Nancy Peterson, ProNexus Consultant
In grad school, people used to tell me that perhaps I was too “nice” to be in Business. That was either a compliment to my sense of fairness, honesty and high ethics; or an indictment of my utter lack of ruthlessness. As a former French and English teacher, who re-tooled herself into a finance professional with an MBA in Finance, concentrating on Managerial Accounting, being “nice” was something I was determined not to lose. Accounting and Finance with their rules and procedures seemed a good avenue for my personal brand of “nice.”
At one firm, I worked as a financial planner and analyst; they called me “The Girl Scout.” Yes, I was a Girl Scout, advancing up the ranks as a child and teen. I even worked both as a professional Girl Scout and a professional Boy Scout. To me, the “leave a place better than you found it,” mindset of the Scouts was a good metaphor for how I have approached my work in the business world.
Recently I found a book written by the co-owners of a successful New York City advertising firm (The Kaplan Thaler Group). The book took a look at how they used 6 principles of “nice” to become and stay successful with their business. The principles they espouse show how to use this quality more effectively.
The authors talk to the idea that the quality of being nice is often
seen as “passive” or “wimpy.” However, they assert that “nice is not naïve” and it’s “the toughest four-letter word you’ll ever hear.” They argue that placing others’ needs on the same level as your own is the most successful way to get what you want.
Nice people and the companies that adopt these principles are overall healthier, happier, and more successful.
The six principles are:
- Positive impressions are like seeds (positive energy has a multiplier effect)
- You never know (impact often comes in unexpected ways)
- People change (positions and statuses change over time)
- Nice must be automatic (something you do all the time, and genuine)
- Negative impressions are like germs (takes seconds to ruin the positive)
- You will know (behave in a way that makes you respect yourself)
The majority of the book is spent on the detail of each principle through stories, examples and exercises about how to use “the power of nice” and the outcomes you get through their use. The examples and exercises help you practice being nice without sacrificing what you want. They show techniques for making businesses grow and employees find greater satisfaction in their careers and lives such as including others and pooling resources, bringing humor into interactions, helping others (even enemies), cooperating rather than competing, telling the truth from a sincere but kind perspective, listening, and asking rather than lecturing. While reading the stories, I often thought of current events that show some of these principles. How different the United Airlines’ incident of the passenger dragged off the plane could have been if the company had reacted with kindness and humility from the very beginning! Could our country solve more of our political and social issues by cooperating and listening?
Perhaps the most important idea for me that they discuss is harnessing the power of empathy. Empathy allows us to see things from other people’s perspectives, allowing us to tap into the resources and strengths of others. Solving problems when you really know the problem, not just your perspective on it, allows for a more creative, healthier, and supported solution.
The real power of nice, the authors say, is that “there is untapped potential in even the smallest good deed, and that it can have a multiplier effect strong enough to change the world. Yes, a random act of kindness can help you become wealthier, healthier, and wiser. But most of all, it will make you happier.”
One of the tenets of Leadership of ProNexus LLC, uses these principles:
“As former Big 4 CPAs, our founders know how important company culture can be to driving success. When they co-founded ProNexus in February of 2012, they indoctrinated a culture that was centered on treating clients, employees and strategic partner like family. Today, our leaders have fostered a strong company culture that not only nurtures business growth, but one that caters to the strengths of its employees.”
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