I’m a nice guy. I think so anyway. Although my kids might disagree, I’ve been told that at times I’m too nice by some of my employees and friends.
I like it when I can make someone’s day, and I’m a big believer in what goes around, comes around.
The Bible puts it like this: “Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” (II Cor 9:6)
But is it always good to be the nice guy? Have you ever been accused of being a Grinch? Beyond that, is there a time when your employees, and your business would be better off if you were, say, a little bit mean?
I say yes. If you want your team and your business to thrive, sometimes it pays to be mean. Be mean, and in more than just one way.
Mean What You Say
Words matter. When you speak, people need to be able to trust the person behind the rhetoric. If you consistently are walking back things you’ve said in the past, or needing to constantly clarify what you really meant, then maybe you need to keep your yap shut until you can mean what you say.
Follow through with what you promise, whether it’s rewards or disciplinary actions. People need to know that your words represent reality, not intentions. If you’ve already developed a reputation for not being a person of your word, then go to those people and apologize, and make it better from this point forward.
Clarity is very important if you’re going to be known as someone who means what they say. Use simple and direct language when necessary, such as: “If x happens, it means that y will be the consequence.” No one, and I mean no one likes a boss who plays consequence gotcha.
You know that person. They use failure on the part of an employee as an excuse for paybacks for the past. As the leader, they failed to provide any clear directions or consequences, and yet are ready to drop the hammer in disciplinary actions for a mistake. Don’t be that person.
Be The Mean Between The Extremes
It’s incredibly important to know and accept that you can be the boss when you should be the boss. Every team needs a qualified and quality leader if their goals are progress and success. The person in that leadership role has to accept that with that role come hard and unpopular choices at times. If you can’t handle that, then you don’t need to be the leader.
You can be the friend when you can. It’s that simple. You don’t have to isolate yourself from your team socially, or sentence yourself to an island of let’s just keep it professional. Sometimes your team needs you to be an encourager, a listening ear, a friend. Be wise enough to know when those times are, and when they are not able to happen. This helps you achieve that mean position between being the Boss and being the Friend.
Most of all, you have to be the Leader at all times. The fulcrum between boss and friend is Leadership. Your ability and success as a leader moves the fulcrum back and forth, helping you determine whether it’s boss time or friend time.
Be The Means to Their Success
The growth of those you lead should be tied in some measure to your influence and example. Each person does have choices to make about their own progress. But as John Maxwell says, “leadership is influence.”
As a leader, be an important means to the success of your team members. Their success should be affected by you successfully matching their skills to the challenge or task.
It should be enhanced by your coaching and counseling along the way. When there are failures, discover if your leadership had a part in that and try to fix it. You are not totally responsible for the success or failure of anyone on your team. But you can be a means to either success or failure for them. Choose to be the means to their success.
Being The Mean Person Is Not Always A Bad Thing
John Wayne said: “Life is hard. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” Life is full of the people The Duke was talking about. You may even have to work with some of them, whether they be employees, vendors or clients.
Doing the right thing is something you should never have to apologize for, but you may have to fight for. Be tough…be mean if you have to. Protect your team when necessary, fiercely if the situation demands it.
You may come to the point where all of the coaching, mentoring, explaining and reasoning isn’t working, and an employee is running roughshod over other staff or clients. Confront it directly and boldly if you have to. If others perceive that as mean, then so be it. But do the right thing.
So maybe being mean isn’t such a bad thing, unless you’re green, and it’s Christmas. Don’t be a Grinch, but keep being mean open as an option.