If you were negotiating the distribution of seven valuable marbles with a colleague, and you could not break the marbles in half, and both of you were equally well-off from an economic perspective, how many marbles would you take for yourself? This is the question posed by Russ Edelman, Tim Hiltabiddle and Charles C. Manz in their book, Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office.
After navigating the eight practical strategies contained in this masterful analysis, you are in a better position to answer that question without coming across as being overly nice or a jerk.
This is not some nice-to-know, modern-day management snake oil they are peddling. Rather, the authors have thoroughly researched the so-called Nice Guy Syndrome through their consulting practice, the aptly named Nice Guy Strategies.
An Overused Strength
The message comes through loud and clear: more than 60 percent of people identify themselves as nice guys who frequently are frustrated when “niceness” holds them back from higher levels of success in business and in life. The authors are quick to point out that nice people “tend to be achievers who tend to be diligent and conscientious.” The authors continue, “Their tendency to be eager to please means they’ll often go above and beyond the call of duty when something or someone is important to them.”
But as is too often the case, a great strength can become a liability when used in excess. “Because they’re so eager to please, they tend to go overboard –– doing what others want them to do, but ignoring their own needs and priorities,” according to the authors. “This leaves them feeling exploited, frustrated and overworked.”
The prescription offered in Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office has nothing to do with becoming more aggressive, selfish, intimidating or impatient. Being a jerk, just as being too nice, tends to limit your effectiveness.
Rather, Edelman, Hiltabiddle and Manz say that you can hold on to all your “nice” attributes — kindness, morality, fairness, compassion, empathy, ethicality, selflessness and sincerity — and still get ahead.
They offer the Nice Guy Strategies Bill of Rights, a virtual template designed for nice guys (whether you are one or manage one) to change behaviors, meet challenges and transcend perceived limitations. These “rights” enable you to increase self-awareness; to express opinions and be heard; to set boundaries and respect them; to address issues directly and without fear; to make choices without guilt; to hold yourself and others accountable; and to push beyond your comfort zone.
Strategies That Can Work
As the book progresses, the authors share real-life stories from the people they have interviewed. They also introduce three personal strategies for each right, including insight into how the situation could have been handled more effectively. They conclude each section with corporate management strategies that provide prescriptive steps to show how the strategies can be implemented in the workplace.
After navigating the eight practical tips, the reader is well-prepared to answer the question posed at the beginning of this review. If you took six or seven marbles, chances are you are a jerk. If you didn’t take any or took only one or two, you are overly nice. If you took four or five, you are likely well-balanced, but you are probably not thinking about the long term. The right answer is three, because selecting three marbles brings you as close to balance as possible. As for the fourth marble, letting the other person keep it demonstrates that you are willing to invest in the longer-term health of the relationship.