Leaders Know that True Kindness Beats Niceness

I live in Iowa, and a term that gets floated a lot is “Iowa Nice.” As time goes on, though, it gets used ironically as much as it gets used sincerely. I think that’s because

“Nice” doesn’t always equal “Kind.”

Some leaders need to be reminded that giving positive you’re-on-the-right-track feedback is important and motivating. People don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s the job of a leader to tell them. And when you tell them they’re doing well, they’ll know you don’t take them for granted.

Many leaders also need to be reminded that giving critical you-can-do-this-better feedback is also important, and needs to be done about 25% of the time. If critical feedback is too infrequent, it can come out of left field and leave the recipient confused.

Doing these two things isn’t just nice; it’s kind.

Letting people know where they stand, letting them know how to nail their work, and showing faith that they can handle tough talk when delivered constructively and appropriately shows kindness. And it’s not necessary to soften it up if they’ve gotten a steady stream of affirmation over time.

Daniel Pink affirms this in his book on motivation, Drive—people are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Critical feedback enables mastery.

Tej Dhavan offered this up at 90 Ideas when he pushed us to “provide meaningful feedback.” “This [critical] feedback is the lifeblood of growth-oriented startups,” he said.

So be kind by giving necessary feedback.

This post is part of a set of posts inspired by the Business Record’s “90 Ideas in 90 Minutes” event in September 2017. Learn more, download a pdf, and see all the speakers here.

Post 1: Leaders Develop Everyone
Post 2: Leaders Encourage Thinking “A Step Above”
Post 3: Leaders Ask “Does it Need to be Said?”
Post 4: Leaders Use Time Wisely: Rethink the Block
Post 5: Leaders Champion Inclusion and Diversity
Post 6: Leaders Stay Hydrated
Post 7: Leaders Make Changes Stick
Post 8: Leaders Engineer an Experience
Post 9: Leaders Measure More than the Average
Post 10: Leaders Pay it Forward
Post 11: Leaders Watch Out for Doubt and Fear
Post 12: Leaders Value Human Interaction

  1. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    Kindness is always better than “nice.” Thanks for the specifics.

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