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The Sweet Spot Between NICE and FIERCE: BOLD

NICE teams are too NICE. FIERCE teams are too FIERCE. They are just two extremes of the same team continuum. The sweet spot in the middle is BOLD. BOLD teams balance NICE's compassion, consideration, and caring with FIERCE's courage, risk taking, and honesty. The balance is a delicate one, and it doesn't come easily.

BOLD teams realize that it's not just what they do that's important: It's how they do it, too. What they do gives them the short-term success. How they do it sets them up for future success, through growth and development.

Why BOLD Teams Are More Successful Than NICE or FIERCE Teams
BOLD teams know that success is about balance. They understand that spending too much time and energy protecting each other's feelings (NICE) has a cost. They also know that spending too much time and energy on the task (FIERCE) also has a cost. They strike a balance between the realities of NICE and FIERCE teams to create a new, BOLD reality.

Truth 1: We give each other balanced feedback.
Like FIERCE teams, we realize that constructive feedback is critical for our improvement but that it doesn't have to be harsh to be helpful. We are direct, honest, and straightforward with each other. Our criticism comes from a place of caring and a sincere desire to help each other. We offer constructive feedback because we deliver it in a truly helpful way. We trust that our teammates will receive our feedback in the spirit in which it is offered. Moreover, we actively seek constructive feedback from our teammates because we trust they will offer information that will help us improve.

Truth 2: We pay attention to the work itself, as well as how we work.
We are conscientious about results. The reason we exist as a team is to deliver. We work hard to hit deadlines, conserve precious resources, and get the job done well. We prioritize our time and resources to meet the expectations set for us as well as our own commitments. However, time lines and goals don't drive us. We drive them—or at least we manage them.

We take the time to challenge our assumptions about not only what work should be done, but also how we should do it. We want to consider all viewpoints before firming up our plans and heading into implementation. Our goal is to hear from everyone before proceeding, so we actively solicit input from quieter teammates.

We especially welcome the devil's advocate type of discussions. We consider potential problems, not just potential payoffs. This approach helps us build preventive measures into our plans so that we can avoid most problems. It also helps us plan our contingent actions up front so that we are ready if a problem does arise. We are more effective if we're ready for obstacles than when we are caught off guard and shoot from the hip.

Truth 3: We balance our desire to say "yes" with the reality of resources and competing priorities.
We are not in business to say "no." We want to say "yes" to each request made of us. Although it feels good to do so, we also know the dangers of overextending ourselves. Moreover, we recognize that our organization has entrusted us with valuable resources. It's our job, as stewards of our time, budget dollars, and other resources, to be responsible to the whole organization, not just to ourselves or clients or partners who may happen to be our favorites.

Before accepting work, we realistically assess our ability to deliver. We have frank discussions about our current workload, sharing concerns and reservations as well as hopes and desires. The merits of incoming work are weighed against what we've already committed to doing. We avoid putting ourselves in the position of overwork or burnout because in the long run that serves no one's needs.

Truth 4: We respect the diversity of experience and approach on the team.
Decisions are made with everyone's input and participation. By respecting each other's experience and expertise, we avoid dismissing the perspective that others on the team may have. Newcomers and those without direct bearing on a specific issue still have valuable input for us. They can see things that those of us in the thick of it miss. They ask the "stupid" questions that only those not in the know can ask. These are often the most helpful questions for us to address!

We don't expect any one team member to make a decision for the team on his or her own—not even our leader. Shared accountability leads to the team's success. We know that being part of the decision-making process means that each individual will commit more wholeheartedly to the result than if a decision is given to (or forced upon) us. By deciding together, we are more accountable to each other. Even though one of us may take the lead on something, the rest of us are right there in support to ensure our success.

There are no winners and losers on issues. We all win together or lose together. Because it's all collective, we work all the harder to ensure the wins.

Truth 5: We encourage healthy debate.
Conflicts are addressed as they come up. We realize that conflict is part of any healthy relationship and that unresolved conflict becomes a cancer in a group. By not shying away from conflict, we make ourselves more mutually vulnerable. We share our honest reactions. We express how we think or feel, as well as what we want or need from each other. Everyone is encouraged to be transparent and genuine. However, we don't lash out at each other when we feel hurt or offended. We approach conflict with compassion.

Truth 6: We balance our need to plan with our need to be flexible.
Like FIERCE teams, we make plans. We scope out projects and make budgets, forecasts, action plans, and work assignments, but we draw on all our collective experience and wisdom to plan ideal courses of action because this is the best way to manage toward better results. We don't rely on just a few to decide for us: we put all our cards on the table. We have open and frank discussions about what is possible, given various other demands and constraints. Then we decide together.

Since everyone is part of creating the plan, each of us is involved and understands the ins and outs of our work. This allows us to be flexible when we need to be. We don't get distracted with tangents and nice-to-haves when we know what is truly important and why.

Truth 7: We are efficient in both the short and the long term.
Short-term results are important; so we drive for them. Our focus is on getting the job done, on time and within budget. We know that many assess our success by what we have accomplished lately, but we also won't sacrifice the future for the present. If issues come up now, continually putting them off because we don't have time today doesn't serve us well. Sometimes it makes sense to stop and regroup before moving forward. This gives us renewed vigor and a sense of purpose. We find ourselves creating work-arounds or altering our approach to accommodate internal obstacles, we call this out and deal with it. Although it slows us down momentarily, fully addressing—and resolving—team problems now means that we won't have to work around them again—and again.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Nice Teams Finish Last by Brian Cole Miller. Copyright 2010, Brian Cole Miller. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit www.amacombooks.org

About the Author(s)

Brian Cole Miller is the principal of Working Solutions, Inc., a management training and consulting firm whose clients include FranklinCovey, Nationwide Insurance, and the UPS Store. He is the author of Nice Teams Finish Last.

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