So, my 69th book of the year was Winning Nice: How to Succeed in Business and Life Without Waging War, by Dawna Stone (Center Street, 2007). I have a weekness for books about leadership and management even when I'm not on the job market (yeah, I really know how to have a good time, I know), which is why this one jumped out at me. Overall, it was a better than average specimen of the genre. The author, a successful entrepreneur and executive (among other things, she founded Her Sports + Fitness magazine -- now Women's Running, and was the winner of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart), argues that not only does one not need to be an S.O.B. or a bee-with-an-itch to be successful, but being a nice girl (or guy) actually reaps significant professional dividends.
The book is divided into two main sections: "Build Your Foundation," which outlines seven interpersonal skills key to personal success and making a difference to others, and "Build Your Future," which discusses how to apply these skills in one's own personal and professional life. Specifically, the skills she champions are as follows:
- Believe in yourself - i.e., believe that you can truly make a difference.
- Learn to communicate, because essentially, all interaction is communication, and the higher you go in your career, the more of it you need to do.
- Give recognition. The key to genuine, inspiring leadership (not to mention retaining the best employees) is effective recognition.
- Take an interest in others -- treat everyone as a potential customer, client, or friend, because hey, you never know.
- Help others help themselves, whether that's by encouragement, mentoring, or just plain listening.
- Be part of the team -- go the extra mile, do what you say you will, and show some enthusiasm.
- Exude professionalism. Here I was afraid this would be all about dressing for success, but it's not -- appearance and attire are mentioned, of course, but so are punctuality (which won points with me right there), communication, and sensitivity.
- Find your passion. This seems to flow logically from believing in yourself; if you do this, you can and should find a line of work that you truly love and are committed to.
- Promote yourself. This isn't about (or advocating) bragging, so much as communication ... which darned well better include making sure your bosses know what you've done and that you want to advance beyond your current position one day. I'd personally always thought this was obvious, but it's actually not -- especially in the non-profit sector, where I work -- but that's a whole 'nother conversation.
- Learn the art of managing nice. This one's a bit tough to summarize, but basically -- be approachable, set clear goals, and build trust.
- Become a great leader. Stone argues that what sets true leaders apart from mere managers is "the vision thing" -- seeking out opportunities, changing the rules, and so on.
- Build lasting relationships. Again, this seems like a pretty clear parallel with taking an interest in others. Networking may be a cliche, but it really is the name of the game.
- Embrace your customers and clients. The book argues that we all have customers, whether they're people who walk into our store, our employees, advertisers, vendors, and so on. Whoever they are, if you don't make their experience a good one, they won't want to do business with you.
- Give back. Just as you should ideally do something for a living that you're passionate about, you should find a cause outside your primary job to support, with time and/or money.
- Be your best (yeah, this one sounds a little Oprah-ish): Focus on what you really want to do, and put in the effort you need to do it well.