Amy Adams on Being Nice

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Why do some managers feel that being nice is a sign of weakness? While this misguided belief may be an attempt to build up the perceived importance of the leader, it is really destroying the culture of the workplace. One person who can remind us of this simple principle is Amy Adams.

Amy Adams is one of Hollywood’s leading ladies. She’s starred in such hits as The Fighter, American Hustle, The Muppets, and Man of Steel and is the winner of a Golden Globe award. Being one of the most sought after actresses of our time, Amy has the clout to treat people however she would like. So why does she decide to treat them so nicely?

In a recent story, Amy gave up her first class seat to a solider on board her flight. There was no expectation that she swap seats and no one asked her to make such a courteous gesture.  She did it to be nice.

I don’t know if this story is tabloid fodder or a sincere, non-PR-related event. Regardless, it’s nice to see tabloids publishing positive stories for a change. What’s key is the effect a story like this can have on us.

Too often, leaders confuse being nice with being ineffective. “Nice” does not portray the edge that these leaders want to demonstrate.  They feel it conveys a sense of powerless or vulnerability. The truth is quite different.

According to research by Bob Sutton in his book The No Asshole Rule, leaders who threaten, publically shame, rudely interrupt, and insult their staff cost their companies more then they are worth. The calculate the “Total Cost of Assholes” consider diminished productivity, increased turnover, decreased engagement, and suppressed communication, just to name a few. This far outweighs how much value the individual is bringing to the organization.

Being nice is not about lowering performance expectations or sugarcoating mistakes. It’s about treating people with respect. When you need to say something that’s less-than-positive, don’t scold or demean. Be constructive. Speak to them like they are adults who are capable of understanding what you say without being talked down to.

Words are important…actions more so. When’s the last time you “gave up your seat”? This does not have to be about grand gestures or pricey gifts. Can you bring your assistant coffee from the lunchroom once in a while? Open a door for someone else? Offer to help carry boxes to a co-worker’s car? These small gestures go a long way. It’ll build your credibility, increase staff loyalty, and might even get you a write up in a tabloid.

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