The (super)power of nice

Jack Blog

April 2nd, 2015 By Joe Panepinto PhD


Since it only took me about 3 seconds to decide what to wear on the first day in my new gig as strategy director at Genuine (jeans & a wrinkled linen shirt, duh), I had some time to think about what books I’d take with me.

That choice didn’t take much longer – I decided to bring only one: The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Kaplan & Koval. Sure, the Niceness Principles in Chapter 1 are great, but what’s most intriguing about the book – especially for a strategist – is Chapter 8: Shut Up and Listen. As strategists (and colleagues, and partners, and friends, and family members) we often are so eager to share what we think are dazzling insights that we cut things short and miss what’s important about a given interaction or relationship.

The most successful strategists are intensely curious – tabloid reporters without the mean streak – and the 5 goals listed in the chapter are guides worth keeping in mind as my new team and I “do” strategy together here at Genuine:

  • Let the other guy be smarter. The person who desperately tries to be the smartest person in the room inevitably comes off as the least.
  • Keep it simple. Life is complicated enough. Clients – and colleagues – expect us to be expert enough to keep things simple and easy to follow.
  • Ask don’t tell. Even if you think you know the answer already, it’s worthwhile to ask someone to articulate it for you – you may be pleasantly surprised.
  • Don’t argue so much. Really. Don’t.
  • Everyone is worth a listen. Don’t confuse this with the idea that everyone deserves a medal – some ideas are better than others (enough said) – but pretty much all are worth a bit of a listen before moving on.

The last bit of advice I’m choosing to take away from The Power of Nice comes from the last chapter that asks us to “Put Your Head on their Shoulders”. Empathy is trait #2 on the strategist – and colleague – checklist, if you ask me. And it’s hugely critical to remember. So, the foundation is set, and I’m ready for my first day “inventing together” armed with the 3 most important traits I can think of: curiosity, empathy, and nice.