Nice guys finish last? Not in Tim Sanders's world.
He's not alone, of course. The antiquated notion that you have to be a bastard to get to the top has been rotting in the corporate landfill for a while now.
Sanders, though, goes even further: Not only is it OK to be nice — it is absolutely essential.
The best-selling author of Love Is The Killer App, The Likeability Factor, and Today We Are Rich (which is required reading, in my humble opinion) gave an inspiring keynote address at the 2011 CCH User Conference in San Antonio.
His message was simple: Relationships matter.
Check that: Relationships don't just matter. They might be the only things that matter.
“Your network defines your net worth,” Sanders said. “Relationship quality is everything.”
So if relationships are the only things that matter, what do we have to do to take advantage of that fact?
Sanders has some ideas:
Don't hire unhappy people: Your culture is at stake the minute you sit down to interview a potential employee. Too often, we focus on a prospect's skill sets. The most important factor is not performance, says Sanders. It's happiness.
“High-performance jerks suck the life out of the office,” Sanders said. “Hire for happiness first and performance second.”
This is vitally important. If you hire happy people, your office will be a happy place to work. How much more pleasant, productive and progressive will you be if your employees are happy and engaged? I don't need to provide the answer.
Smile. It says, “I like you. I appreciate you.” That reciprocity creates a culture of friendliness, and that makes life at the office so much better.
If friendliness is the top priority, relevance is a not-too-distant second. Relevance “is the only thing that keeps relationships going,” says Sanders. And since relationships matter, relevance matters. Add value to your clients' lives. Be relevant.
Be generous. Mentor others. Give away the stuff that you know. Network relentlessly. And keep this in mind: Networking is not about you. It's about connecting people to other people and then getting out of the way. If you do that well, says Sanders, it will come back to you.
And finally, be empathetic. Feel for the other person. Feelings are facts, says Sanders. “You shouldn't feel that way” is not an appropriate response. If you want to reach the pinnacle of relationship success, be emotionally available. Treat all feelings as facts. Listen. Respond. If you do that, you will have become the most important person in your clients' lives.
My mother's favorite saying comes from the Disney movie “Bambi”:
“If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.”
Based on what Tim Sanders tells us, I might change that as follows:
“If you can't say anything nice, you're doomed to fail.”
In today's social world, relationships matter. Friendliness is essential. Relevance is non-negotiable. Add value and do it nicely.
Fail to do that, and you risk becoming irrelevant.
It's your choice.