How To Finish First As A "Nice Guy" (Or Gal)

“It’s not true that nice guys finish last. Nice guys are winners before the game ever starts.”
Addison Walker

Ever since the beginning of time, everyone has asked the same question. Everyone has wondered how they get others to do what they want them to do. All managers and supervisors ask that question, and so do all team members, spouses, and parents. Everyone is in the business of getting the cooperation of others.

I suppose that’s why one of my more popular programs is on “Cooperation and Conflict: Working Together Instead of Coming Apart.”

So how can you get the full and willing cooperation of others? You’ve got to be a “nice guy.”

But let’s be clear about our terms. “Nice guys” are not “nice” because they refrain from threats, bullying, and punishments. And they’re not sugary-sweet “nice.”

No, they’re “nice enough” to understand there are only six things that block a person’s cooperation. And they’re “nice enough” to know how to remove those blocks so they get the cooperation they want and need … on and off the job.

Let’s take a quick look at those blocks and what you can do about them.

=> 1. The Other Person Doesn’t Understand Your Expectations.

No matter how good your communication skills might be, no matter how clear you think you are, your message is seldom if ever perfectly understood by the other person. People simply see and hear things differently … all the time.

So be extremely careful of assuming you and the other person understand each other. As Father John Powell says, “When you ASSUME you understand one another, as the word spells, you often make an _ _ _ of U and ME.” It would be much wiser to expect some misunderstanding … whenever you communicate … because that would force you to do a better job of communicating.

That would have been a wise course of action for one rich man I remember. One day, as he was sitting at home, a poor, shabby-looking fellow knocked on his door. Having nothing to eat and no place to sleep, the poor fellow said, “Sir, I’m hungry. Can you give me a meal?”

The rich man replied, “No, I won’t do that, but I’ll give you a chance to earn it. Wait here.”

A few moments later the rich man came back with a can of paint and a brush and said, “Here you are. You go around to the back of the house. You’ll see a porch there. I want you to paint it. When it’s finished, you come back here, ring the bell, give me the paint and brush, and I’ll give you a meal.”

A short time elapsed. The front door bell rang. The rich man answered it. There was the poor man saying, “I finished the job. Can I now have my meal?”

The homeowner asked, “You painted the whole porch already?”

“Yes, the only thing is, Sir, it wasn’t a Porsche, it was a Mercedes.”

Obviously the poor man didn’t understand the rich man’s expectations. And when you find an employee not doing what you expect, when you find your kid not doing his/ her chores, it may be because of a misunderstanding.

So ask yourself lots of questions. Is the other person’s job description up to date? Is the other person’s job description crystal clear in your mind? Are your guidelines complete? And are your goals realistic?

Then ask the other person to recite, in his own words, what he thinks your expectations are. Listen for any differences between your wants and his understandings. And clear up those misunderstandings immediately.

That’s the first block to cooperation … the other person doesn’t understand your expectations.

=> 2. The Other Person Lacks Knowledge Or Skill.

There are times when the other person really wants to cooperate. He wants to give you what you want, and he has every intention of performing at the level you desire. But he just can’t. He lacks the knowledge or skills to pull it off.

It’s like the man who went to his doctor, saying, “Everything I touch hurts.”

The doctor said, “Really? Show me.”

The man touched his head and said, “Oh that hurts.” He touched his knee and said, “Oh it hurts.” He touched his nose and said, “Ouch, that hurts too.”

The doctor said, “I’ve never heard of this.” So he x-rayed the man’s body from top to bottom and said he would give him the results tomorrow.

When the man came in the next day, the doctor said, “You dummy. You broke your index finger.”

As silly as it sounds, that’s how it is in some organizations. The employees may not know what’s wrong, why things aren’t working, or how to fix it.

I see it happening in organizations that are going through a lot of change. The leaders may tell their employees they have to change the way they’re doing things, but those leaders may fail to give their employees the training they need to be effective in the new environment.

When you see someone under performing, ask yourself if you or your organization has changed anything. Procedures, policies, equipment, products, services, expectations? Have you properly prepared the other person for those changes? Does he need more training or more information or both?

If neither number 1 or 2 seem to be the cause of poor performance or a lack of cooperation, then look at…

=> 3. The Other Person Hasn’t Received Enough Feedback.

An open, constantly flowing line of communication between you and the other person is vital. In his book, “Seeds of Wisdom on Productivity,” Dr. Mike Murdock says, “There are less than five people in your life that you can count on to fully complete an assigned task with excellence on the schedule you requested.” Everybody else needs lots of feedback to keep them on track.

For your part, you need to examine your feedback. Is it candid? Does it come frequently? Is it given immediately after you’ve observed behavior that you really like or don’t like? And is it worded in such a way that the other person knows exactly what he has to keep on doing or needs to change?

Of course the other person also has some responsibility when it comes to feedback. She has to CONFIRM and ASK. In terms of confirmation …

**The other person has to keep paper and pen in hand. The other person won’t remember everything you asked her to do. And a good employee knows that, so she is always ready to jot down a note.

**The other person has to document your instructions. A good employee doesn’t simply nod when you give feedback. She writes it down.

**The other person asks questions about the feedback.

In terms of asking, good employees know that very few instructions are complete in the beginning. So they ask such things as, “What’s the deadline on this project? When do you need me to report back to you on the progress of this project? Is there anything else I should know about this?”

You see, when employees don’t ask any questions about your instructions, chances are they’re not giving much thought to your instructions.

As I said earlier, there are only six things that block a person’s cooperation. I’ve just given you three of them. Check out next week’s Tuesday Tip when I outline the other three.

Action:  Think of two people who give you less than full cooperation. It may be someone at work or at home.

And then ask yourself which of the three blocks is most likely to be getting in the way of the other person’s performance: 1) a misunderstanding of your expectations, 2) a lack of knowledge or skill, or 3) a lack of feedback.