Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Power of Nice in Volunteer Management

Linda Kaplan Thaler in her book, “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness”, co-authored by Robin Koval, suggests that “nice has an image problem.” She goes on to say “Somewhere along the way, using the word nice became something you said when you had nothing else to say.”
How right you are Linda and how often do we, as volunteer managers, hear that word in reference to our roles.  In fact the other day, a colleague and I were discussing how our roles are often characterized by people, outside the volunteer management sector, by comments of “how nice!” While we cringe at the saccharine, somewhat patronising description of our jobs, we both agreed that there was nothing wrong with being nice.  In fact it was essential and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Linda goes on to say that “For many people ‘being nice’ is misinterpreted as ‘being a doormat’, which is very far from the truth. You can be nice without being a pushover.”
A while back I came across a video of a debate at an International Women’s Day event held by AIM Australian Institute of Management. The AIM Website promotes the event as follows “Every year six accomplished business women grace the stage and take on a provocative debate topic over lunch with over 1200 guests.”  The debate which caught my attention was the 2010 debate topic “That nice girls don’t get the corner office”.
I listened with great interest to the six speakers, but was extremely impressed by two speakers in particular.
Louise Perram-Fisk, Director Industry Capability, Corporate Division, 1st speaker for the negative said that “the word nice by definition was being respectful, showing skill, tact, care and kindness”. She went on to say that “Nobody said that if you were nice you gave up your objectives, your drives, your determination.  Nobody said that we go far if we trample on others.”
Louise quoted CEO and author of best seller “The Power of Nice”, Linda Kaplin Thaler “Nice is the unsung hero of the business world”.  Linda’s research showed that ‘nice’ companies experienced lower turnover, have healthier and more successful people and are less likely to be involved in costly litigation.
Karen Jacobsen, The GPS Girl, Voice Artist and Entertainment Queen, 3rd speaker for the negative suggests that “being nice is not a weakness.  It is a strength to take you where you want to go.”  Karen goes on to say “My clients want to deal with me because I am committed, professional, courteous, considerate, respectful and skilful.  I believe in excellent customer service.  I embrace the nice not the naïve.”  In a truly inspirational conclusion Karen calls for everyone in the audience to join her in paying tribute to International Women’s Day by holding mobile phones in the air in a silent and unified wave to the strong and powerful essence of nice.   
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.
Please feel free to post a comment.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

This Post also appears on I-Volunteer 


  1. Volunteers are given many options and opportunities, for sharing their time and skills and are free to make choices. They made up of are dedicated, passionate, and grounded who make a positive impact to the community.
    volunteer work in australia

  2. Thank you rafal for taking the time to comment.

  3. It took me a long time to realise that being 'nice', meaning polite, courteous, respectful is part of who I am, and not something to push down and squash! It's so good to hear it being recognized again, and being given a fresh airing!

  4. Thank you for your comments Meredith. I totally agree with you. There is nothing wrong with courtesy, politeness and respect for people. It is something which should be acknowledged and encouraged.


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