Nice Trumps Smart

Have you ever been dressed down by someone seemingly smarter than you just so that person could make a point? Have you ever been “called out” – or even worse – dismissed because you were behind the learning curve on a particular issue? Have you ever been interrupted or talked over, implying that your opinion or perspective was not worthy of even being heard? I have; and it is the worst feeling in the world. It conjures up all sorts of responses – none of which are productive or in the spirit of building good, strong personal or professional relationships.

Recently I read a magnificent HBR blog written by Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company. He tells two powerful true stories which drive this point home – one about an poignant interaction with his grandmother and one about Panera Bread and how a particular store manager went above and beyond to serve an ailing customer who craved Panera soup in the hospital. Both stories will give you pause about the power of kindness…read them!

In light of this article, entitled “It is more important to be kind than clever,” I began to think of how this applied to my own work. Recently, a few of my clients have voiced impatience and, in fact, a lack of tolerance with certain employees who in their words “simply don’t get it” or “are not working with the same passion and sense of urgency that I have.” The interactions with their teams and peers have been short, irritable, and in some cases downright rude and insufferable. The subsequent feedback from their colleagues has been harsh and direct: “Tom is just impossible to work with”, “No one wants to work with Sue”, and “Nothing is ever good enough for Dave – I don’t even want to pick up the phone when I know he is on the other end.” Sound familiar?

Last week’s blog offered a few suggestions on how to lay a stronger foundation with team members to avoid being labeled “that unreasonable person” and to build a more collaborative work environment with your colleagues and partners. These basic tips are familiar to all of us, I am sure; yet, in the heat of the moment often become the first casualty.

In short, the net point of both of these posts is simply this: nice trumps smart every time. There is no reason or justification to be rude, dismissive, or smarter than another just to prove a point. It serves no purpose and no one – especially you. We need to remember that small acts of kindness and generosity of spirit build bridges. It is much harder to be thoughtful, courteous and generous when pressures loom and we are under the gun. When we are able to couple being nice AND deliver strong results – the combination is indisputably powerful.

What is your perspective on this? Have a story to share? We are listening…