November 15, 2015



Contrary to professional belief, you don’t have to be ruthless to be successful. Evidence and examples from the management and leadership worlds prove, again and again, that people who can connect and collaborate develop loyal and fruitful relationships with their colleagues and clients.

I walk into dozens of firms and organizations stripped of empathy and humanity in the name of success. There is a surrendered complacency at the bottom of the professional pyramid, coupled with resentment and cynicism among middle management, stemming from resistance and control at the top. Tough “top-dogs” harden their workforce and create problems–recruitment, retention, morale, well-being, job satisfaction–that affect success in bottom-line terms.

I’d like to offer a paradigm shift to bring the old-school business model to the new-leadership paragon. Instead of:
Nice Guys Finish Last thinking, embrace a N.I.S.E. Guys Finish First approach.

What is a N.I.S.E. guy (or gal) approach to management? It’s the understanding that Nonverbal, Interpersonal, Social and Emotional skills are paramount to leading people to achieve positive and productive outcomes.

  • Nonverbal Skills account for more than 80% of communication transactions. More than what we say, is how we say it. Successful individuals get the importance of eye contact, facial expression, vocal tone and body language. They know that our nonverbal behavior will either block  our successful communication or create meaningful and desirable connection.
  • Interpersonal Skills are crucial for motivating others, resolving conflict, providing appreciative and evaluative feedback, making requests, presenting, participating in meetings, arriving at decisions, mentoring, delegating, planning and a host of other daily activities that occur in the workplace. At the heart of these interpersonal skills is mastering the art of connected listening to gain deep understanding.
  • Social Skills require us to put people first, and to make our policies, processes and procedures align with that priority. Some people are extroverted collaborators, others are introverted thinkers. We work with people who like to brainstorm and think out loud, and with others who prefer decisive, curt answers. Understanding that there are different styles and strengths allows us to develop our social skills and adapt our approaches with various individuals who all contribute to common goals.
  • Emotional Skills are key to managing our own moods and prevent us from reacting every time we get triggered by co-workers and clients who irritate or upset us. Emotional intelligence allows us to practice detached involvement, to empathize with others, to resolve conflict proactively and to appeal to the emotional needs and desires that form the basis of decision making.

Becoming a N.I.S.E. professional requires skill development in each of these four areas — an investment that will lead to successful outcomes for individuals, teams and organizations. Once we begin to shift the professional paradigm to recognizing N.I.S.E. guys/gals, our work life will inevitably become a more rewarding experience.

Lee Broekman is an author, professor, trainer and coach. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying presentations and programs — focused on communication, collaboration and innovation — to your firm or organization.

Find her latest book Successful (Happy) Lawyering on