On being effective yet nice

For many years, having worked in industry and academia, I could not think about these two words going together. I thought that to be effective you must be hard nosed, ruthless and driven. Therefore, it seemed logical that when you manage people well and achieve goals they won’t like you. However, if you are nice people will like you but you will not achieve results.

This misconception was swept aside when I met Kevin Taylor, Professor of Pharmaceutics, Head of Department and a leading scientist on drug delivery systems.  When I met people who know Kevin they said, ”He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet”. People who work for him say the same things but also add that, “he is an excellent manager”.

Our group visited UCL School of Pharmacy last year and I met Kevin for the first time.  From the moment I met him I was immediately swept away by his openness and friendliness. I wanted to be like him effective yet nice.

What are the characteristics that make Kevin an effective manager, research supervisor and nice person?

These are the characteristics of all great leaders.  We should learn from them and try to make them our own. It takes a bit of practice. Anyone with a little practice can achieve what the greats have achieved. With consistent application these then become habits. Your habits will shape your future.

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character” – Albert Einstein

People’s talents and abilities are astounding. Their achievements are usually average. You need to tap into innate ability and use more of your mind. Usually, it is not something outside of yourself that stops you. Your fears and insecurities get in your way.

Be honest with people

People who work with Kevin trust him instantly. He is honest and communicates well with everyone. Honesty goes a long way in developing good working relationship. The speed of your success is often dictated by the depth and quantity of your relationships with people.

A lie has speed, but truth has endurance.  ~Edgar J. Mohn

If there is a choice between two competent people you will get promoted to higher positions if the decision makers like you. Generally, people like to work with people they trust and respect.

Respect everyone you meet

People will do more for you if they respect you. To earn respect you must first give it. Respect everyone you meet.  At the basic human level everyone deserves it. Before someone has a role as manager or supervisor he is a human being. All humans should be respected.

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”  – Albert Einstein

Mutual respect and understanding are cornerstones of good working relationships. When an organisation has good working relationships then the atmosphere is great. People want to work there. You will then attract like-minded people to accelerate your success.

Work hard

Hard work and practical application of your talents and abilities guarantees you a regular wage. This ensures that you achieve the results you want for your organisation to be successful. Remember hard work is the key to success.

“A good idea is about ten percent and implementation and hard work, and luck is 90 percent” – Guy Kawasaki

Give it all you have, word hard as if there is no tomorrow. Rest at night and on Sundays and then start again at full throttle.

Be well organised

It is very important to be organised. Don’t waste people’s time. Do the right things at the right time. Most people have an organisational system. This may be paper based or on a computer. More and more people use their mobile devices to organise themselves, keep track of their tasks and timings.

“Information is a source of learning. Unless it is organised, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden” – William Pollard

No one likes or respects a person who is disorganised. These type of people are perceived as ineffective, inefficient and more trouble than they are worth. To achieve your goals and be respected amongst your peers you must be well organised.

Help others

Think about other people and help them achieve their goals. The greater the help you give to others the more help you will receive in return. The law of attraction says that, “whatever you give you will also receive”. Simply stated, if you want help then give help. If you want money then give money. Being helpful is an endearing characteristic in people.

“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble” – Bob Hope

You are here to serve people and make the world a better place for everyone. You are here to help your team members and other people in the organisation so that everyone achieves more to make your university more successful.

Help people to learn to help themselves

There is a common saying, “if you feed a man a fish then you have to feed him for life. However, if you teach man how to fish then you feed him for life”. Even though you extend help to others when possible don’t created dependency.

“What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. Your answers lie inside of you” – Denis Waitley

Dependency doesn’t feel good at all. Self reliance and independence are great.  Being capable of doing whatever you need is an empowering objective to strive towards. Help people just enough so that they can do their own work and be independent.

Laugh at yourself

The most endearing people have the ability to laugh at themselves. They don’t take themselves too seriously. When you can laugh at yourself and your mistakes you achieve two things.

“Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on” – Unknown

You release tension and build rapport with others. These twin qualities are important for you to be effective as a leader and as a person.

Everyone wants to hang around people who have a great sense of humour whether at work, home or at parties. Develop the ability to laugh and make people laugh. Tell humorous stories but don’t make jokes of people, their abilities or personal characteristics. Learn some jokes and tell them in a funny way. Your goal is to make the world a happier place with your humour.

Never talk ill of others

Backbiting is a very bad quality. It is anything that is said or done which would make a person feel bad if he was present. If you have some good things to say then by all means come out with them. Otherwise, it is best remain quiet.

“A knife-wound heals, but a tongue wound festers.”Turkish Proverb 

Focus on people’s positive qualities, amplify them and practicing seeing them. Expect the best from people and they won’t disappoint you. Encourage people to display their best qualities and do their best work and pay them sincere compliments.

Respect peoples time

Make sure you are always early for meetings. Someone once said that. “One half of success is just showing up”. If you are not there it does not matter how talented you are, you will fail. You have to show up to have the opportunity to express you talents and be appreciated. Never be late and respect time.

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you lose it you can never get it back” – Harvey McKay

If someone comes to see you make sure you’re on schedule and give everyone the time they need. Don’t keep them waiting unnecessarily. Poor time management annoys people and they will think you are inefficient or you don’t value them.

Respect contribution

Whatever someone has done something find something positive to say and pay them a compliment. They make people feel good about themselves. People who feel good perform more effectively. If you make people feel good they will automatically like you. We all want to spend time with people who make us feel great. We want to do more for someone who makes us feel good about ourselves

Be genuinely interested

Genuine interest in people, their wellbeing and achievements are great human qualities, which makes a person more effective and feel good. It draws people closer to you. The quality of the work people do for you will improve if they feel close to you. Genuine and sincere interest is a great way to establish a close bond.

“Why should anybody be interested in some old man who was a failure?” – Ernest Hemmingway

However, don’t be nosy. Only ask people about things they are happy to share. If a subject is off the mark then keep away from it. People don’t like it if they feel that you are preying in their personal business.

Follow the proper etiquettes

We now live in a global society. If you go to a major city in he UK then you will find people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, religions and ethnic origins. Depending on where the other person comes from you have to be follow accepted protocols. Make sure you learn the basic protocols of all cultures you may have contact with living in your community.

“I’m not shy about heated debate or passionate discourse, but when people get crazy or rude, that’s a buzz kill. There’s got to be a better code of conduct, some basic etiquette” – Mos Def

At universities we have students from all over the world from dozens of countries. We need to respect all people, cultures, religious beliefs and values. Through mutual respect we can achieve more and create a better place for everyone.

Share your vision and aspects of your life

Share your vision and dreams with others. When they know what you are all about they’ll feel that they understand you better. Clearly write down your vision on paper so that you can share it when you have the chance. Give people good news about your work and personal life.  If you are struggling with something then share it with others. They may have experienced the same problem and may offer valuable solutions. If they don’t they will at least feel that they know you better. Don’t make it into a sob story so people feel sorry for you. Ask for their help. People like to help and asking draws you closer to them.

Always be fair

Fairness is a quality that we all look for in others. If you are fair then people will respect you even if they don’t agree with you. This is especially important when have authority.

“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised” – Brit Hume

Fairness is the quality of Kings. Those that have been fair with the people were adored ruled for a long time and the unfair or cruel ones were unpopular and dethroned quickly.

Goal Alignment

It is very important that your goals are aligned with those of the organisation you work for and are not purely personal. Your goals must fit in with the organisational mission and vision for the future. When these are aligned then there is little conflict because everything you do is for the good of the organisation or group you are working for.

Misalignment of goals and objectives cause problems later. Even if an individual works hard and achieves at great deal if goals are not aligned then the organisation is unlikely to achieve its goals. It may go out of business. The universities are also businesses and the same rules apply to them. They have recruitment, teaching, research and knowledge transfer goals to achieve. Often their funding is linked to achieving certain objectives. If you help the organisation to achieve its objectives then you will also succeed.

Work as a team

Together everyone achieves more. You must work as a team in this hungry and competitive environment. If we work alone and neglect our team the company may go out of business. You have to ensure that all the team is working towards a common vision. You achieve together and you celebrate together.

“On this team, we are all united in a common goal: to keep my job” ~Lou Holtz

This is more important because its is obvious that if team succeeds then you succeed. To win trophy in football you have to play together as a team. If one member doesn’t perform then even the biggest prize will slip away from your grasps. Organisations are teams that must wok together to succeed. Help each other. Your goals and my goals are the same is a great attitude.

Push past limits

You have to continually push limits and achieve more than anyone else. Take risks and think outside the box. The main thing is that everyone should win. Put the organisation first in every decision you make. Taking calculated risks can make your organisation much more effective and give you an edge.

“You cannot be wimpy out there on the dram-seeking trail. Dare to break through barriers, find your own path” – Les Brown

Break through barriers and help other people to break through thier limits. Most of the time these barriers are mental and self-perceived. They don’t really exist but they paralyse a person. We all need supporters to help us succeed. Even the very best people need coaches to achieve outstanding performance and break records.

Follow these suggestions and you can be effective and nice.


3 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Computational Physics Group and commented:
    Another great post from Prof Waqar Ahmed

  2. Another great post in the collection ! Can you have it in categories, like a book, so we can read them again and again ?

    1. Prof Waqar Ahmed | Reply

      Hi Andrei – thanks for the compliment. You’ll have to show me how tags and categories work.

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