A new book called The Power of Nice is a winner. The book, by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, the chief executive officer and president, respectively, of the Kaplan Thaler Group advertising agency, describes how being successful doesnt mean you cant do the right things in life. According to the authors, there is a payoff in being a person of integrity, and the best way to compete in a given marketplace is to keep your word and be principled in business deals. It seems from much of the commentary about the book that Thaler and Koval have been practicing these virtues for many years. They ascribe their success to practicing the principle of being nice.
Being good to others is the best business policy
Of course, good manners and decency in the business world are far from common. But looking at those who are most successful, you do find many who do business the right way, with integrity and even kindness. I have known salespeople who put on presentations to an account and spend most of their time running down their competitors. Talking in a negative fashion about another company or organization is both destructive and stupid. Most people would rather hear about what you have to offer in terms of products and services without you telling them what you think of a competitor. Customers, clients and prospects feel that evaluating other companies is their prerogative, so you are insulting whomever you are trying to sell to.
I wonder how many of us have the intellect and the understanding to write a letter of condolences or sympathy to a competitor who has lost a loved one or is facing a health crisis. The president of one of the largest healthcare advertising agencies in New York once told me the story of a competitor whose wife was dying of cancer. He took it upon himself to write a letter of condolence to the husband. He received a phone call a couple of days later from the husband, and the two of them became close friends. They would later combine the talent of their two agencies and help each other win certain accounts. That friendship lasted for many years, although both of them are now deceased.
Too many people in business dont understand that by helping others we make ourselves better people.
Thaler and Koval also make it clear that making others feel good about themselves by being valued and treated well pays huge dividends. They tell the story of Frank, a security guard at their headquarters, who always greeted everybody in the morning with a big smile and Good Morning. If youve ever worked in New York things arent quite as chummy and cordial as they are in smaller cities around the country. People are a little more uptight and many dont go out of their way to offer greetings, though I find that is changing these days.
Anyway, Frank apparently stuck out because of his gregarious nature. He made everyone feel valued. Now it just so happened that Kaplan Thaler was attempting to land a big airline account and had invited the airlines executives to a presentation at its headquarters in New York. The airline execs werent crazy about going to the Big Apple. Like so many other people around the world, they had heard all the stories about rudeness. But they agreed to go to New York, and as they entered the office building they received one of Franks effusive greetings. The agency presentation went well, but from comments later made by the airline executives, it seems Franks role set the tone, showing the class of the organization. The agency landed the account.
Figure it out for yourself. People like people who are positive and behave ethically. A smile and a hello go a long way as well to make people feel important and valued.
Charles S. Lauer is the former vice president- publishing and editorial director of Modern Healthcare. He now is a consultant to the healthcare industry and also serves on the boards of healthcare companies.
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