Can Nice, Smart People Succeed?
It's perceived wisdom that in business the shark wins. The aggressive, the fast, the dominant take the spoils. The nice guy or gal isn't going to win, so s/he might as well get out of the way.
Too many of us nice, smart people are intimidated by the myth of the shark.
But if you look at Shark Tank, the popular TV show about entrepreneurism, you'll see that the quintessential Shark, Kevin O'Leary aka "Mr. Wonderful", gets the fewest deals with contestants, and few of the other Sharks want to participate in deals with him.
Why? Because Mr. O'Leary declares he is only about the money. The other Sharks are about the money for sure. They're not dumb. They're very successful entrepreneurs who know how to take risks and win.
But the other Sharks, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, and Daymond John are also after talent. They want to help up and coming entrepreneurs with drive, a good idea, and a great work ethic succeed by lending them their money and their network. When the people they invest in succeed, so do they.
Tim Sanders in his 2008 book, Love Is the Killer App, writes in depth about his experience of applying love in the workplace. His success at broadcast.com with Mark Cuban (now on Shark Tank) and at Yahoo! before becoming a consultant and speaker testifies to the power of sharing your knowledge, your network, and your compassion at work.
Sanders call this form of interaction "bizlove", and those who demonstrate it he calls "lovecats". He came up with the mantra, "Nice, Smart People Succeed".
Here's why Sanders thinks the Era of the Villain is over in business:
"There was a time when people who were unsympathetic, mean-spirited, or unkind could feel secure knowing little could be done about it. The new economy doesn't allow for this. There are two major reasons why ...
"The first is choice. Choice spells doom for villains ...
"The second reason the new economy is inhospitable to noxious people is what I call the New Telegraph ...
“If someone rips you off, all kinds of great technology are available to let others know ...
"People are hungry for compassion. There's not enough of it. And the tougher the times are, the more important it becomes ... No matter how technical our work-stations may be, because we are all human, the network is at its best when compassion underlies our motivation."
Think about the network of people you know - at work, in your networking groups, at church or synagogue or mosque, at your children's school or sports teams, and your friends and family. Within this network are tremendous resources of help, support, and connections. Many times they remain untapped because we don't think to ask for or offer help.
And we often refrain from giving freely of our affection and caring. We think it's not business-like. Or we fear we'll come off too mushy or soft.
But the truth is, even the most hardened businessperson needs attention and compassion. S/he is human after all, and affection is one of our primal needs. I imagine I see Kevin O’Leary flinch every time the other Sharks say they won't play with him.
There are appropriate ways to approach someone with love that respects their personality and boundaries, so I'm not advocating full-body hugging a new business acquaintance today. But I am advocating looking for ways that you can acknowledge another person and find ways to be of service to her or him.
Here are some simple steps to get you started:
Go to a networking event and meet at least one new person and ask how you can help her.
Does she need an introduction to a good banker or insurance agent? Does she need to brainstorm where to get new clients? Does she need a friendly smile?
Call up someone you met at a networking event and have a conversation. Ask her how you can support her. Tell her how she can support you.
Support can be as simple as sending good vibes or holding the vision of her success. It doesn't have to be an in-depth call. Knowing that good will is flowing both ways will deepen your connection and strengthen your network.
Make a connection for someone else.
Recently I met John, the boyfriend of my good friend. He's looking to switch into a field where I have two friends. I offered to see if my friends would speak to John about the field he wants to work in. I sent my friends emails, they said they'd be happy to talk to John, and now it's up to him to have the conversations.
This may be the old-school version of LinkedIn, but it's effective. I helped John make contacts in a field he's interested in, and deepened my relationship with my friend by helping her boyfriend.
Sharing your knowledge, your network, and your compassion is kind. Asking and allowing others to help you in the same way is smart. Realizing we're all in this world of life and business together is compassionate.
Being kind, compassionate, and smart doesn't fit the old model of business. There are still hold-outs like Kevin O’Leary, but there are plenty more of us who want real connections in our work.
If you are in the service industry, you are already committed to serving others.
Are you willing to become a lovecat? You just may be surprised at how sharing your knowledge, your network, and your compassion will help you and those around you succeed.