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Beware a culture of nice

Cultivating a “nice” culture can be a problem.

While the reasons for pursuing a nice culture are genuine – civility, safety and inclusion – they often result in a lack of honest communication, intellectual bravery, and accountability. And these types of organizational dysfunctions can cause your best people to leave, slow down decision-making, and worst of all, lead to learned helplessness which is simply throwing your hands up and keeping quiet.

Timothy R. Clark, CEO of LeaderFactor, lays out four ways to combat the toxicity of niceness:

Clarify expectations, meeting types, and standards of performance. Ambiguity feeds toxic niceness. Be explicit with instructions and goals. Set agendas and then follow up for proper accountability. Don’t let shoddy performance be okay.

Publicly challenge the status quo. Ask the hard questions in public like “Are we really being honest with ourselves?”; and “Is that the best and fastest we can do?” Nudging, challenging, and pushing are good when done kindly.

Provide air cover for candor. When people do speak up, thank them for their candor. Reward the brave ones who express dissent productively.

Confront performance problems immediately. Silence is agreement and condonement. Hold people accountable for missed deadlines and incomplete work. But do it privately and respectfully.

Healthy tension – the push and pull of ideas, deadlines, and results – should be channeled and harnessed, not avoided. Be tough but kind to reduce mediocrity, and drive excellence.

Have a great week.

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