Do the Right Things vs. the Nice Things

If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you can easily discern a pattern over last few posts. I’m thinking about next year. It happens every year during the fourth quarter – I want to figure out how to have more impact in the upcoming year. I believe every leader should struggle with the same issue.

My assistant shares my passion for continuous improvement. Recently, Teneya shared an idea that challenged me in a profound way – she has a habit of doing that.
While talking about how both of us could make a bigger impact in 2014, she said, “We’re going to have to decide to do the right things vs. the nice things.”
I’m still processing the implications of this idea. However, I know she’s right. How often do we find ourselves trading the right thing for the nice thing? For me, I’m afraid it happens far too often.
What does this look like in your world? Below are some behaviors for you to consider. As you read the list, see if you can guess which are the nice things and which ones are the right things. I'm betting you'll know the difference.
Nice Thing or Right Thing?
Set a new strategic direction or stay the course to avoid challenging anyone?
Attend a portion of an all-day meeting or stay all day so as not to offend the host of the meeting?
Challenge a team member who fails to prepare for a meeting or avoid the issue?
Decline a speaking engagement or accept every request regardless of the audience?
Dismiss an employee who can’t grow with the business or keep the person on the payroll indefinitely?
Eliminate a program to reallocate needed resources or sacrifice new ideas so outdated ones can be funded?
Have a difficult performance conversation or continue to give inflated performance ratings?
Say “no” to non-strategic work or say “yes” to non-strategic work?
Confront problems and issues or avoid discussing problems at all costs?
Give stretch assignments to people and expect them to struggle or avoid giving stretch assignments because they may create some discomfort?
Cut your losses when a product or program has failed or continue to let a project flounder to avoid confronting the project leader?
Pursue truth through conflict or avoid conflict because it makes some people uncomfortable?
As I've begun to talk about this issue with people, the immediate question is, "How can you tell the difference between the Right Thing and the Nice Thing?" That's a fair question. Clearly, it's not always as obvious as the examples above. I'll share some additional thoughts on how we might discern the difference next week. But here's my experience - my challenge is not knowing the difference. My challenge is finding the courage to act on what I know.
More next week...[GLS_Shield]

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Dan Forbes

9 years ago

Great post, Mark. It reminded me of the Stephen Covey quote, "The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing." Focusing on what's truly important is the key to productivity and success.

Manuel Longueira

9 years ago

For me this relates directly to emotional intelligence, and the link to immediate self gratification.
Doing the nice thing results in the early gratification. The right thing often takes time, and gratification is of a more wholistic nature.......the greater good, may involve the good of others, or the organisation,, rather than purely being good foe self...
By the way. Love your work


9 years ago

Manuel, thanks for your comments! I agree, our emotional intelligence as leaders is a big factor. For me, my struggles with doing the right vs. the nice, reflects a real opportunity for me to grow as a leader. I'm still on the journey! Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark


9 years ago

Thanks for sharing your heart on this issue. My brother is a pastor - your story rings true at many levels. Thanks also for your cautionary note - certainly, we must always strive to do the right things the right way. That was my assumption all along. Sorry I didn't make that clear. Thanks again for sharing your story. I pray 2014 will be your best year yet. Mark

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8 years ago

[…] Do the Right Things vs. the Nice Things – This seems to be an ever-present challenge for me. As I talk with others leaders, I am not alone. Although it will never be easy, it is essential that we try. Our effectiveness hinges, in large measure, to our ability to figure this out. […]


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