Mr. Nice Guy Gets The Job Done
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"You’re too nice, Aby.” At the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, this is a phrase that has been leveled at me at many points in my life, and it’s often said to me with a faint accusatory whiff around it. I’ve often thought it to be weird that being nice could ever be seen as a negative attribute, but, over the years, I’ve come to realize what most individuals mean when they say this statement to me the directive is to not let people take advantage of me (and my goodwill) to do things for them, without even a cursory nod to, well, my welfare and well-being.
This can happen in different ways, of course- one example of such a situation is when I bend over backwards to accommodate a late request or an unreasonable demand from a client on a project, simply because I am mindful of the importance of this particular customer to our business, and as such, I am eager to make sure the customer is always happy and satisfied, no matter what. Entrepreneurs, I’m sure at least some of you can identify with this sentiment of mine: when you’re a startup, every customer is critical to your business, and you don’t want to lose any of them. Because, at the end of the day, these customers –regardless of their personalities or attitudes- are the ones who are fueling your fledgling business, and while onlookers can say that “you don’t deserve to be treated like this,” you, as a startup, sometimes simply don’t have the luxury of being choosy about whom you work with. It’s not about wanting to keep them happy; you have to keep them happy- and as a result, you’re willing to do a heck of a lot more than what’s necessary to get them to feel that way. If that means you have to work day and night to get the job done, you’ll do it. If that means you have to do things that you’re not accustomed to, you will do it. If that means you need to tolerate their irrational behavior with a smile, you’ll do it.
And that brings me back to my apparently overt niceness in certain situations. More often than not, such instances happen because of my personal attitude toward work- I’m just keen on getting the job done in such a way that the stakeholders involved are both satisfied and delighted with what my team and I have done. When I see bad behavior from clients, I feel the easier thing to do would be to say a flat “no,” and have an impasse as a result- the tougher thing to do, in my opinion, is to remain respectful, find a middle ground, continue to work with them, and still get the job done. Of course, this does not at all mean that you should be a doormat and let yourself be treated badly time and again (if that’s the case, it’s time for some tough conversations, as The Hard Talk Handbook author Dawn Metcalfe would put it). But my point here is that when you deal with people that -you think- are behaving in a problematic way, it may be well worth your while to have an open mind, listen to the other’s perspective, and then try to find a way to work with them in a way that’s agreeable to you as well. And if that results in you being called too nice for doing so- well, I’d say that you should take it as a compliment. But that’s just me- tell me what you think by tweeting at me on @thisisaby.