Best Is Not Always Nice

I was recently talking with someone who used to work for General Electric during the Jack Welch
era.  They said that working at GE was the best job they’ve ever had. 
Not because things were “nice” but because the management team pushed
you to be the “best” you could be.

It reminded of that classic question, “Tell me about the best boss
you’ve ever had.  And, why they were so great.”  My answer is similar. 
My best boss wasn’t always the nicest person to work with.  She was the
one that pushed me to be better.  When I made the decision to leave, we
laughed about her being exasperating at times…but I give her a
tremendous amount of credit for pushing me into areas of HR that I
wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

On the other hand, the nicest boss I ever worked with was also the
one who was around the shortest amount of time.  After not delivering
profits three months in a row, he was gone.

What I learned from both of them is that being a manager means
having to make tough decisions and communicate difficult messages.  It
means making decisions
in the best interest of the company. And, sometimes no matter how hard
you try…people will not always perceive your actions and decisions as

Does that mean that managers can’t be both?  Of course not.  But in order to be perceived as both nice and best, you need to:

  • Set levels of expectation.  On the front end.
  • Reward and recognize results and behaviors that align with your company culture.
  • If you notice potential superstars, tell them and encourage them to take on new and additional responsibilities.
  • Coach employees who are struggling with performance.

Communicating with honesty and empathy can soften those difficult
conversations.  The important thing is to still have the conversation.