A few years ago it was my privilege to officiate at the memorial service of an old friend. The family did not want a traditional structured ceremony. They asked that time be given for mourners to say whatever they wanted about the life of the man being honored that day.
For over 45 minutes, I simply acknowledged one person then another as they stood and offered their words of respect. To a man they all acknowledged the deceased as a man of honor, honesty, respect, grace, and ability. They all labeled him a “nice guy.”
Ok, the oft repeated words attributed to baseball coach Leo Durocher, who reportedly said “nice guys finish last,” seem to challenge my premise. But it all comes down to what is meant by the phrase “nice guy.”
This is the last article in the series Keepers, Traits of those exceptional people you want to keep around. I do not want to conclude this leaving any doubt about the overriding demeanor and attitude of a person who makes a valuable asset to you and your company or organization.
I have discussed these 15 traits so far:
- Aggressive accountability
- Psychological and emotional security
- Personal & institutional loyalty
- Skills and temperament appropriate to the position
But a nice person makes all other traits and capacities oh so pleasant to be around. I hate a workplace filled with tension, bickering, or Machiavellian maneuverings. Hate it! I’ve left jobs and turned down positions because one or more of those negative attributes existed.
Life is way too short to spend it in incessant conflict. There is a better, more excellent way. Peter Drucker once wrote of three principles that must guide our engagement with others:
- Build only on islands of health and strength.
- Work only on things that will make a great deal of difference if you succeed.
- Work only with those who are receptive to what you are trying to do.
Find nice people to work with. Not rude, not cynical and sarcastic, certainly not abrasive or manipulative.
Nice does not equal less assertive. Nice people are neither passive nor unambitious, they’re just well, nicer about it. They possess great strength, immense fortitude of character, and courage. They manifest it with grace. A wonderful example of this can be found in the lives of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They were both giants yet fulfilled their roles with great grace. They were nice guys.
Can not so nice guys get ahead? Surely. They often do. And some organizations or companies seem to want that type of person. I don’t.
Nice guys play fair. They give everyone their due, bring others along, work cooperatively and considerately. Nice people treat their co-workers with courtesy, say please, say thank you, offer assistance, are easy to get along with.
Nice guys are not saccharin. One may disagree but do so nicely. The reader should not infer that I am advocating a person who never makes a ripple, never disputes a decision, never challenges a decision. Nice guys as I interpret and apply the term in this context are not wallflowers. They make their presence known but do so in such an excruciatingly nice manner.
Nice guys build bridges, clear pathways, garner cooperation not by mandate but by winning over opponents and inviting participation.
Nice guys finish.
Nice guys, at least in my company, last.