is apparently a thing. In a world where the news is an endless stream of negativity, people are generally tired of life, and businesses struggle with “quiet quitting”, I was caught off guard when someone told me I was too nice.
Before I get into the too nice details, it’s worth sharing that throughout my career, people have said to me that I’m too quiet, need to be more assertive, and am a bad negotiator. The interesting part to me about these comments is that the people giving them to me seem to have all maxed out in mid-level positions in their careers.
I say interesting here because when it comes to being successful, (while there are many ways to define this) those in the work environment giving me this feedback tend to focus on the big paycheck and all that it brings. Because I choose to drive a Honda must mean I am not nearly as successful as the guy driving the E-Class Mercedes. If only I would be more vocal, more assertive, and more forceful, I could have everything those AVP and VP level people have too. Yeah, that’s crap!
and strategic people don’t walk around broadcasting their thoughts and ideas to everyone that will listen. I’ve come to realize that many people cannot look past themselves, their preconceived notions, and their approach to success. Somewhere along the lines, they apparently learned that by listening to others and by thinking about various perspectives makes you weak. You need to stand up for what you believe and fight for it no matter what. The problem with this approach is that so many people do not understand, I mean really, truly, understand what they are talking about yet they are adamant they are correct.
and dare I say a touch of wisdom, has shown me that the more I know, the more I understand that I really don’t know anything. While I will take a hard line on certain topics based on my experience, I am never closed off to an idea or someone else’s perspective. That, in my opinion, would be foolish.
Ok, so back to the too nice comment. I’m currently leading a top priority project for the company I work for. A few items were lagging, and I decided it was time to escalate my concerns to the project sponsor. The sponsor, a long tenured employee, ended up helping to move things along but provided a bit of feedback after the project meeting.
His feedback to me was that I was quote, “too nice”. His perspective and his feedback gave me pause at first, irritated me slightly next, and finally ended up making me smile.
the process the sponsor put in place should this project get off track was to escalate any concerns to him directly. It was NOT for me to press the team harder or step in and get things done myself. For following the sponsor’s defined process, I ended up getting the “too nice” feedback. That was the irritating part.
As for the smiling part, what I came to realize is that despite me telling this sponsor that I have run a business, managed dozens of projects effectively all at the same time, and that I’m capable of getting the job done myself if I were to step in in a different capacity, it all has fallen on deaf ears.
Perhaps it is because I no longer drive the Mercedes E63 AMG or the Tesla Model X (both worth twice the cost of the sponsor’s car) or because aggression and the quantity of words spoken is more valuable than the quality of words spoken. Or maybe the impression is that because I followed the defined process, I’m not capable of getting things done.
what I will say. Of the handful of priority projects currently in progress, the one that I’m leading is the only one on track and on budget. My project is on track not because the sponsor stepped in – no – it’s because the team of people actually doing the work responded to the calm and focused communication coming from me.
I share all of this not to pat myself on the back. I share this story because I think it’s SUPER important that in this crazy, cruel, fast-paced, survival of the fittest world, that if what you’re accused of being at work is “too nice” YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT! Let your work speak for itself. And, for some of you with fancy titles out there, remember that your title and the type of car you drive don’t always make you right. Oh, and being a prick isn’t the only approach to getting things done.
Be sure to check out my Listening To Understand post as well!