3 ‘Nice’ Leadership Types That Shut Down Productivity

“Stop being so nice!”

Have you ever heard this from your employees? Probably not. They may prefer a ‘nice’ boss to a ‘mean’ boss, but you know what they say about nice people finishing last. There are many flavors of niceness, but being too nice can negatively affect your personal and team productivity — costing the business in growth and profits.

Leaders are in a position to create a culture of productivity within their organization. They can be a role model and empower people to work more productively through their example. Rather than being a cog in the wheel that turns the system, they need to oversee the wheel, spot the hurdles and create solutions for smooth operations. These decisions, which often involve change, may not endear leaders to everyone, but it comes with the job.

In this post, I will address the three most common nice leadership types that I’ve seen in my coaching practice — and why they shut down your productivity.

Ready? Let’s stop being so nice and start being clear and effective leaders!

1. The Nice and Super Busy Type

When a leader is busy, that does not mean the same thing as productive. Too often, I meet senior leaders who are bogged down in work and can’t “find the time” for professional development to be able to look at how they can run their organization more effectively. They believe it’s selfish to get coaching because it takes them away from their team.

These nice types are ultimately hurting their team by keeping busy but pushing off the important work of process improvement, strategic planning or innovative research. Sometimes, the best thing they can do is focus on their personal development as a leader, get unstuck and work smarter. The trickle-down effect on their team is huge.

One leader I worked with said something I’ll never forget: “I don’t know what I need you to do. I just know I’m feeling overwhelmed and I need help.” His honesty and willingness to ask for help opened the floodgates to a new culture of productivity within his organization.  

Here is the result in the words of one of his managers:

“The owner of our company hired Jan Lehman to work on his personal organization and workflow. Now not only is he less overwhelmed and more in control of his environment, but many of us throughout the organization are seeing the positive benefits as well.  Jan helped him understand how his personal style was impacting the productivity of others.  He is now more structured and aware of the importance of how he interacts with us.  The end result – increased productivity and job satisfaction throughout the organization. The trickle-down effect of Jan’s work on our company has been amazing!”  

Joanne – Finance Manager / HR Coordinator  

Try this: For 20-30 minutes a day, stop focusing on checking off a task. Look for larger process improvement opportunities that will have a bigger impact on your productivity or on your team. Where are the bottlenecks? Where do you get stuck or overwhelmed? As you are more productive, your team will benefit from a more controlled delegation and review of work. If you need help getting started or creating this habit, hire a coach!   

2. The Nice and Passive-Aggressive Type

In Minnesota where I live, we joke about how everyone is “Minnesota Nice.” People outside the state think this means that we are super sweet.  What Minnesotans often mean by this phrase is that many people don’t say what they really think because they are afraid they will hurt others’ feelings. So instead, they make snide, indirect comments and may display passive-aggressive behaviors.

Being a direct communicator is key to creating a highly effective culture. Leaders can’t be afraid to state their concerns and address the issues directly with team members one-on-one or as a group. If you notice yourself having “triangular conversations,” that is, talking to someone other than the person with whom you have an issue, it is a sign of indirect or passive communication. This type of passive-aggressive communication inhibits productivity.

Being too nice and hiding frustration or anger often causes the frustration to build up, which can lead to unhealthy stress and unexpected outbursts. That’s not nice.

It’s also not productive. But it is curable and coachable! The first step, like any good recovery program, is to admit you have the issue!

Then you need to change the way you interact with others. The first thing to do is understand the root cause of your frustration. Are you irritated because people are always late for meetings? Instead of calling it out, do you come late, too?  

Instead of acting out and not addressing the issue, think about ways to clearly state this issue in a non-threatening way. I often coach clients to think about how the “process is broken, but not the person.”  

Assume the blame first for something that is not working. Until you have ruled out everything on your side of the issue, you can’t blame the other person. Did you provide super clear instructions to make sure your expectations are fully spelled out?  Has the person received the proper training?  

Resist the temptation to make a snide comment or to discuss a frustrating issue with someone not involved. Stop and think about how you can be a more effective leader by truly helping to resolve the issue for good.

Try this: When you need to have a direct conversation regarding a frustrating issue, focus on rephrasing. The process is broken rather than the person. Don’t hide behind an email. Important conversations should happen in person. Instead of asking, “Why did you do this wrong?” ask for suggestions on improving the process.

3. The Nice and Never-Say-No Type

A third nice leadership type is the person who never says no. I see this often in business because leaders don’t realize that they need to set boundaries for themselves. They must say no to be successful.

By saying yes to everything, they typically not only hurt themselves with long hours, but they often don’t make deadlines and don’t fully deliver on their promises. Ultimately, they let people down.

If you suffer from this version of being too nice, one of the best things you can do is to set very clear priorities for your day and week. Make sure what you say yes to matches up to those priorities.

By clarifying your priorities, you can delegate or delay tasks while still being productive. You can also defer your answer if you need time to determine if the request is a priority or if it can be delayed.

This nice leadership type can lead to bad behaviors found in the other two types we discussed. By saying yes to everything, you will get noticeably frustrated and too busy to prioritize larger process and productivity improvements for the business. You will be less effective as a leader.

Try this: I have met ‘nice’ leaders who are uncomfortable closing their office door to stay focused on their priorities. Instead of feeling bad, schedule closed door time and open door time. That way, everyone is clear on when you can be interrupted to discuss new tasks or questions. Place the schedule on your door.

What’s Your Nice Leadership Type?

If any of these nice leadership types sound a bit like you, you’re not alone. Everyone can use a little more focus and prioritization to be more productive. One final tip to move you toward effective leadership is this: don’t leave a conversation with the task that a team member should handle. Instead, teach that team member to come up with a solution and handle it. You can always check in and review progress, but don’t do it for them! They will appreciate the training and empowerment. You will free up time for more team mentoring and leadership!

For more tips, read my blog post about creating more “white space” in your calendar. Contact me if you’re ready to stop being nice and improve your productivity.

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