Can You Be a VP of Nokia, or Anything, If You Are Nice?

January 29, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 

Am I a nice person? I was told so many times in private and professional settings – by friends, dates, customers, subordinates, even shop assistants and random people I’d chat to in night clubs or at the beach. That was not my plan or strategy, but I enjoyed hearing it, first reaction being, ”Isn’t it just the way everyone is?”

Most importantly, I was just being myself.

A technician from a production line I was managing, recently wrote on Facebook it was so nice of me to support him in continuing education and how much he respected me for showing understanding when he approached me with a request to change shift on a particular day, when he had his training. This happened nine or ten years ago. I can think of few recent examples immediately how being nice helped me in creating business opportunities, too. (Lesson I learned: People see things, people remember and people respect you for being nice.)

In the nineties I was joking with male colleagues, ”If everyone likes you, it means you are not a good boss.” There were many attributes you would think of when imagining manager in manufacturing but i suppose being ”nice” is not one of them. Maybe ”tough, rough, aggressive, macho, goal oriented….” But being seen as ”nice”, using strengths in relationship building domain, helped me influence and achieve demanding manufacturing and other targets, creating trust and motivation.

Being nice was not being weak, or forgetting e.g. 300 k daily production just for Nokia, on just one line, (on one of the largest testing floor in Europe in semiconductor industry at that time), or tolerating less than 80% efficiency of the production line, or looking at people creating rejects while smiling at them.

Demanding boss, demanding customers and demanding high-tech industry did not mind you being nice while standing on your feet for 12 hours at a time. You had to use your resources and your strengths to deliver high volumes with high yields and ever-increasing quality targets.

Being nice helped me even in such environment, not just in sales and marketing that I was doing later.

Now, as a management and leadership consultant or corporate trainer I better be very, very nice. It is not enough, I know, but it is expected in this industry. At a risk of sounding weird – I ONLY work with clients who are nice to people.

Some think you better be stepping on everyone/never show feelings, make people feel afraid of you if you want to get anything done or get to the top of an organization. Not my style. I would not want to work for such organization, and you?

Niklas Savander, Executive VP and General Manager of Nokia seems to share this opinion. His best advice for success, given to him by his father was ”Remember to be nice to people.”

This is what he said about it in his CNN interview:

When I got my first job, my father told me, “Remember to be nice to people.” You’ll meet them on the way up or on the way down. You go through the good and the bad times in your career. In the end, the world functions through personal relationships. If you elbow yourself up, you’ll fall harder. If you are too self-centered, you won’t be successful. People don’t want to work for you. The current guy who is running IT for services I first met when he was a systems engineer and I was a junior salesman for HP. After many years, we joined Nokia — he eight years ago and me twelve years ago. And since the, I’ve been his boss, like, five times in different roles. From my current team, it’s a long history. When you are faced with the challenge of building something new, you have a tendency to reach out to someone you’ve been through a storm with already.

So you see, it is not just us girls who believe in being nice. Another unknown author came up with a quote I though was awesome: ”Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.”

It works for me. Maybe you disagree, are just different, and you have the right to be.

If you want to read more about ”being nice guy and finishing first” you might want to check out what Richard Branson says about that.

Just so you know I did snap back at others, I did say rude words, yelled at someone, or frustrated them, but it is not what I am proud of, or achieved much with. I just said it so I don’t come across as an angel (I am not) and even if I said I was – you would not believe me.

I wonder if being nice ever helped you in business or corporate world, maybe it didn’t but I refuse to believe that no one wants to be seen as ”nice guy” in business.

Liliana Panic is management and leadership consultant and coach working with leaders and their people around the world on perfecting all skills that help business growth, prosperity and fulfillment. For free e-book by Liliana, success advice, consultation and training resources visit Liliana’s blog

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