INNOVATE

Being ‘Good People’ Can Help You Succeed (But How Might Not Be So Obvious)

Try these tips to help you make what Tony Tjan calls “the only leadership decision that really matters.”

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BY Cathy Salit - 12 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I recently read Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, the newest book by New York Times bestselling author (and my fellow Inc.com columnist) Tony Tjan, who brings his experience as an an entrepreneur, strategic adviser, and venture investor to the challenge of creating a better workplace.

The book reflects both Tjan's experience in business and interviews with close to 100 innovators, executives, artists, academics and others. Here's what he writes about what it means to be "good" in business:

"Good people purposely and proactively put people first in their decision making. This is not done selectively; if you want to be good, then you need to do this consistently and over the long haul. Second, good people grow by continually seeking to improve themselves; this means that they not only pursue their own betterment, they also acknowledge a responsible to help others feel and become the fullest possible versions of themselves...Put simply [good people] step forward to do good whenever they can, not when they need to, their goodness becomes habitual."

The question is how?

It was the passage below that made me realize that the book was also speaking to me as a performer and director (on stage and in everyday life) who helps others create new performances in and out of the workplace:

"In my view, a successful business should not only achieve the goal of realizing and optimizing long-term shareholder returns, but should also emphasize how it achieves that success, how sustainable it is, and how the business impacts everyone it touches."

The emphasis on "how" is mine. I love the "how" question. I urge those I coach to ask the "how" question all the time, because it focuses you on not just the desired outcome, but on creating a process, an environment, relationships, a team (ensemble), and a culture. This is "good" for business and it's also good for the people who make it all happen.

Try a good performance

Good People makes a compelling and very human case for why it is important for you and others in business to be good; I want to offer some advice on how to get there: Perform good. Pretend good. Improvise good. Why? Because it's not always easy or natural to be good, nor is it always obvious how.

Even with the best of intentions, being good often requires acting in ways that are different than what you do by default, or by habit, or because "it's the way we do things around here." So you have to perform or pretend being good to counteract the "normal" ways that just might not be very good!

Now you might be a little suspicious of this advice. If it's performing or pretending to be good, then it's not real. It's not from the heart. I get that. But here's the thing: it doesn't matter! Because if you perform treating people well, perform taking care of your relationships and the team -- even if you don't feel like it -- it's still good. It still makes a difference.

The wonderful byproduct of this performance is that, with repetition, it actually becomes part of who you are, and in that way it becomes real. Being good is easy when you feel like it. Being good when you don't feel like it -- now that's good.