Provision #226: Be Nice

Laser Provision

“Be nice.” That may sound like the admonition to a two-year old who’s having trouble with antisocial behavior, but I’m persuaded we all need to take that advice. In our busy-busy, rush-rush, in-your-face, performance-driven world, being nice has fallen by the wayside. It’s time to change that; it’s time to remember our people.

LifeTrek Provision

Long before the events of September 11 and all that has ensued up to the current day, long before I started my series on the habits of successful people, perhaps as much as six months ago, I decided to do a five part series on being nice. World events have made it hard to stay on track with the habits of success. There’s more to say in that regard. But I’ve decided to come back to that topic in six weeks, rather than to finish it now. Our world could stand a healthy dose of civility and compassion. It’s time to talk about being nice.

Being nice has gotten a bad rap. It’s certainly not discussed in the context of world politics. Many other domains are equally skeptical. People disparage being nice as wimpy, timid, and cowardly. I know business people who pride themselves on not being nice. “I don’t care if people like me,” they say, “all I care about is the bottom line.” Such people wear their “take no prisoners” attitude on their sleeve as a badge of honor.

But is that truly the way to maximize the bottom line? Jennifer White suggests not in her excellent book, Drive Your People Wild Without Driving Them Crazy. “The place to start isn’t with results,” she writes, “the place to start is with your people. Unless you can harness the collaborative power of your people, you won’t get any results. Unless you’re able to get your people inspired by their work, success will elude you. Unless you stop acting like a schmuck and start honoring your people, you won’t achieve top performance.”

In other words: be nice. There is a place not only for civility but also for compassion in the workplace. And it needs to be a forethought, rather than an afterthought. One of my clients, in Manhattan, shared with me her frustration at the broadcast e-mail that went out from the CEO on the afternoon of September 11. In the wake of the day’s events, the CEO indicated that people were free to take the next day off work. If they did, however, he indicated it would be charged as a personal day.

You can imagine how people received this communication, at ground zero of the disaster. The CEO had to backpedal and tell people, in a subsequent communication, that the day would not be charged as a personal day. But the damage had been done. Productivity was impacted negatively because the CEO failed to be nice.

What does it mean to be nice? I love the dictionary nuances. It obviously means to be pleasant, but it also means to be courteous, of good character, precise, skillful, and intense. We can have a nice time, be a nice guy, make a nice gesture, demonstrate a nice sense of style, work with a nice bit of craft, and feel something as nice and warm. If more people were nice in the world, we’d have a lot fewer problems and a lot more accomplishment.

So how do we be nice? Over the next four weeks I plan to take the word apart. The letters N • I • C • E will each standard for a different initiative that’s part of being nice. From my point of view, rather than being a mealy-mouthed, limp-kneed, fatuous approach to life, being nice is one of the toughest challenges we face. It is easy to get so caught up in the pressure to perform, produce, and prevail that we forget all about being nice to the people. We run rough shod over friend and foe alike, and then we wonder why the going gets tougher rather than easier.

Perhaps it’s time to change course. Perhaps it’s time, like Jennifer White says, to put people first. Perhaps it’s time to be nice. Go with me on this journey, and we’ll see.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.


“If all we do is kill the killers we just create more killers. We will never end terrorism by only eliminating the symptoms. To eradicate any evil • whether it be cancer, child abuse, drug addiction, gang violence, child neglect, or terrorism • we must solve the problems that cause it. When concerted efforts by police, DEA, victims and communities like ours finally dismantled one inner-city street gang, other gangs took over, because the underlying causes remained. So it will be with Osama bin Laden. Terrorism is only the strategy, the symptom, the response, a horrific life-denying way to respond to something considered unacceptable. God give us wisdom.”


“I have tried to formulate my take on the events of 9/11 but right now I’m biased and can’t make a clear judgment…We work at ground zero. It is worse than you could possibly imagine there. You are biased too….you haven’t been there. You’re doing a good thing with LifeTrek. Anything positive is helpful, we will be stronger than before. This I am sure of.”


“People who don’t understand the value of liberty (and who take it for granted) are the ones most likely to give it away at flea market prices to the first buyer that comes along. Those who do understand the true price of liberty won’t sell it at any price no matter who asks. Benjamin Franklin said it best: ‘Those who would give up a little freedom for a little security will end up with neither.'”


“It strikes me as inescapable truth that we all have an inherent RIGHT to be here and that one day mutual respect and love for our fellow humans will become the norm. We’re a long way from the vision right now, but unless we start viewing each other and treating each other in this way … giving each other the benefit of the doubt and the room and permission to be different and still be part of the whole … we will never get there!

So I ask you to join me in moving in the direction of this vision … to make a commitment in your heart to stop viewing this world as an US vs. THEM proposition … to let it no longer be a matter of our nation vs. your nation … and to begin to regard ALL of our kindred people as siblings in spirit … siblings to be valued and cherished and respected … rather than as enemies to be feared and hated and killed. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, and I just feel compelled to say so.”


“I am struggling with what to do about Halloween this year in light of the current events. Should I tone it down this year in respect for what’s happened or go at it with the same energy as years past for the kids? What are your thoughts?”


May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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