Nice Companies Don’t Finish First

I recently finished Peter Shankman’s book “Nice Companies Finish First – Why Cutthroat Management Is Over – and Collaboration Is In”.  (Thank you to Jen Berkley Jackson from The Insight Advantage for the copy of it). I love reading business books to get fresh ideas and to see how others react to specific situations.
The book is a quick read and focuses on nine traits that effective leaders have.  The traits include accessibility, the ability to listen, loyalty and giving a damn, to name a few.
So let’s start with what you see when you pick up the book…the title.  It’s all wrong.  Nice companies don’t finish first.  Nice companies get trampled.  Good companies finish first.  Good companies look out for their employees, but do what it takes for the better of the company and not specific executives.  Good companies listen to and put into action what their customers are saying, if that’s what’s going to be the best for the company. Good companies do what is best.  Nice companies do what’s going to make others happy.
The subtitle is all wrong too.  Cutthroat management is still needed and collaboration, although “in” and needed in some cases, can’t run a company.  Think about two examples in the book.  If the employees at Poland Springs hadn’t acted quickly, made a decision based on gut and had, instead, waited for a collaborative reply from all levels of management, the cold, tired, distraught New Yorkers crossing the Brooklyn Bridge after the 9/11 attacks would not have had any water to drink.  Same goes for the man stuck in the snow storm who, because the Trader Joe’s employee didn’t wait, took a cutthroat approach by acting quickly and without reservation, had low sodium food delivered to his door.
I would have named the book something like “Good Companies Finish First – Why It’s Important to Apply the Golden Rule in Business.” But, I’ve never written a book and I’m sure Shankman and his team had many reasons for why they used the exact words they did.

With all of that being said, I think that the nine traits effective leaders are spot on!  We need to get away from the “me, me, me” mentality of business and look out for others – our customers, our employees, our stakeholders.  That doesn’t mean being “nice” to everyone.  It means doing what is right and unfortunately, right isn’t always an easy decision.
Shankman gives countless examples of how great leaders empower(ed) their employees, went with their gut, looked out for the environment and were just good citizens.  In the end, everyone benefited. It’s nice to see there are good companies out there.
What type of company do you want to run or work for?  The one where only the person in the big corner office is benefiting or one where employees and customers feel like they have a real say in what’s going on in the company?  Do you want to work for a company you’re proud of working for or one where people say “Oh, you work there, sorry.”  The decision is yours!

If you’ve got some extra team, pick up the book. It’s worth a read!


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