While recently reading one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Miller, I was grabbed by something his assistant Teneya said as they were looking forward to increase their impact for 2014. She simply stated, “We’re going to have to decide to do the right things vs. the nice things.” Wow! I had to think about that for a bit. Aren’t the right things also the nice things?
As I read Mark Miller’s blog post, I quickly saw myself as a leader who naturally slides toward doing the nice things instead of the right things. I really like to be a nice person. I want to be known as a nice guy. I love it when people like me. It’s easier than doing the right things.
Please understand. I don’t major on doing the wrong things. In fact, I want to be remembered as a person of top-notch character and utmost integrity. I never want a hint of immorality, dishonesty or shadiness to tarnish my reputation. I try to take the high road in every situation. So, this tension about nice or right is not at all related to wrong or right.
This question about doing the right thing or the nice thing is all about choosing excellence over ease. It’s about making decisions that will lead to great not just settling for good. Way too often in my leadership history, I’ve tried to be nice rather than to say what really needed to be said. Too often I should have said “no” to more busyness, but instead I took the easy road and said “yes,” just to be nice.
As you plan for 2014, will you choose to be nice or do what is right? Here are some options you may face:
Pursue truth through conflict or avoid conflict because it makes some people uncomfortable?
Have a difficult performance conversation or continue to give inflated performance ratings?
Confront problems and issues or avoid discussing problems at all costs?
Dismiss an employee who can’t grow with the business or keep the person on the payroll indefinitely?
Give stretch assignments to people and expect them to struggle or avoid giving stretch assignments because they may create some discomfort?
Say, “no” to non-strategic work or say, “yes” to non-strategic work?
Decline a speaking engagement or accept every request regardless of the audience?
Attend a portion of an all-day meeting or stay all day so as not to offend the host of the meeting?
Eliminate a program to reallocate needed resources or sacrifice new ideas so outdated ones can be funded?
Doing the right thing does not always feel like the nice thing to do when you want others to like you. But excellence in leading an organization requires us to do what is right, not just nice. I happen to believe that great leaders do what is right in the nicest way possible. Doing what is right doesn’t mean being rude or uncaring. But leaders must make the difficult decisions that are right. It’s right for the organization. It’s even right for the under-performing individual when you free their future so they can find the right fit where they succeed and shine.
As you prepare and plan for the upcoming year, ask yourself frequently—Is this the RIGHT thing to do or just the NICE thing to do?
QUESTION: What have I missed? Please add it in the Comment section below. Thanks!