Nice Guys Finish First

Remember that old slogan “Nice guys finish last”? Well, that is the opposite of the way I have operated over my career and in the end it has always proven to work out pretty well.

On the other hand, I have witnessed a lot of not so nice guy stories that have ended disastrously.

There was the guy who bragged to me that he had fired his sales guy because on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when he called the guy and asked him where he was, the guy told him he was in the supermarket buying the family turkey. This guy fired him on the spot, and now he was bragging about it! I wonder how that guy’s business is going today.

Or this other guy who gleefully, yes gleefully, told me about the day he kicked his sister off the family’s business board because she dared ask for a discussion about making a little more money! This guy was always telling me stories about the horrible things he had done to family and employees. Awful stories about the awful things he had done…and was proud of.

Years ago, when I worked in a Rockwell PCB shop in Maine. We got behind schedule with the Minuteman program and they sent this “torpedo” out to “motivate” us. He created a war room, no furniture, no place to sit where we would meet every morning and afternoon to watch this guy stomp around the room, get in our faces and shout about what he was going to do to our posteriors. He would either chew them, ream them, kick them, bite them, create us a new one, fry them or stick them with a number of very creative, and painful sounding objects. 

You know what? In the end we would not have followed this guy through Hell. Heck we would not have followed him across the street for a free buffet!

Mercifully, the days of the brutal boss are over. I know that some of you might be disappointed about that and if you are, tough. I have no sympathy for you if that is your preferred modus operandi and I can just about guarantee that sooner or later you will not only not be around, but you will actually fail and destroy your company.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I am not advocating letting people get away with not doing their jobs, or not doing them correctly. What I am saying is that you can get much more out of people with generosity, kindness, and patience than you can by finding new and creative ways to chew them out and humiliate them.

I have fired many people in my life. Once on a Good Friday while visiting my parents I had to excuse myself. Go up to their bedroom and let five salespeople go one at a time all afternoon because the company I was working for was in trouble. But I did it in the most honest, authentic, and humane way that I could. All of these salespeople have remained friends to this day. They keep in touch and often send me leads for my consulting business. This is something I am very proud of.

In the words of that great late in life philanthropist Ebenezer Scrooge in the Muppet Christmas Carol, “If you want to know the measure of a man you simply count his friends.”

And from that great book (one of my favorites, I have read it three times over the years) “Don’t Fire Then, Fire Them Up.” Here are his ten ways to keep people fired up so that you never have to fire them: 

Recognition and Appreciation: Acknowledge and appreciate employees’ efforts and achievements. Public recognition can be particularly effective in boosting morale and motivation.

Clear Communication: Communicate clearly about expectations, goals, and the vision of the company. When employees understand their role in the bigger picture, they are more likely to be motivated to contribute.

Empowerment: Give employees autonomy and decision-making authority within their roles. When employees feel empowered to make meaningful contributions, they are more engaged and motivated.

Provide Feedback: Offer constructive feedback regularly. Positive feedback reinforces good performance, while constructive criticism helps employees improve.

Training and Development: Invest in employees’ professional development by providing training opportunities and resources to enhance their skills and knowledge. This shows that the company values their growth and development.

Foster a Positive Work Environment: Cultivate a positive and inclusive work culture where employees feel valued, supported, and respected. A positive work environment contributes to higher morale and motivation.

Set Clear Goals: Set specific, achievable goals for individuals and teams. Clear goals provide direction and motivation for employees to strive towards.

Lead by Example: Demonstrate passion, enthusiasm, and dedication in your own work. Leading by example inspires employees to follow suit and gives them a role model to emulate.

Celebrate Successes: Celebrate milestones and successes, both big and small. Recognizing achievements reinforces positive behavior and motivates employees to continue striving for excellence.

Promote Teamwork: Encourage collaboration and teamwork among employees. When employees feel like they are part of a supportive team, they are more motivated to contribute towards shared goals.

I don’t know about you but doing these things sounds a heck of a lot more productive and effective than finding ten things to do to their posteriors! It’s only common sense.