I remember in my first year of consulting being interviewed for a possible citizen engagement contract. If hired, I would facilitate a series of citizen roundtables focused on inner city transportation. I remember the interviewer asking me if I thought I was “too nice” to take on this tough group of adversarial stakeholders. How do you answer that question?
If “nice” means not shouting, swearing or table thumping, then yes, I am nice. The Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review focused attention on “The Price of Incivility”, arguing that rudeness costs organizations millions in lost employees, lost customers and lost productivity. I see respect, inclusion and civility as foundations for my work.
If “nice” means avoiding tough issues, then I am not nice. I know my role is to help groups head into the nerve centre of tough, complex issues, and to support them as they have frank dialogue around what must change. They often need to break patterns of being too agreeable or too accommodating. “Confronting the brutal facts”, one of the key principles in Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great, is a necessary, not nice, part of my work.
I did get the contract, and the roundtable achieved great success. I hope your world includes some niceness.