Tag Archives: Patrick Swayze

Why the Attitude? The Business Case for Being Nice

I recently received a call from a frustrated CEO who had concerns about his COO. The COO was brash, antagonistic, and exhibiting a pervasively aggressive disposition. The culture was plummeting and his staff was on the verge of a coup. The CEO and I sat down with the COO to salvage and hopefully remedy the situation.

After I heard the COO’s frustrations, many of which had merit, I dug into why he chose the attack mode. He had excuses and the CEO had retorts, but both seemed to be missing the point. So I went to the heart of issue by asking, “And you couldn’t accomplish this by being nice?” Like many leaders, he equated “nice” with being “weak.” Being a staunch fan of the movie Road House, I could not disagree more.

Road House is one of the greatest films of all time. Starring Patrick Swayze, it’s the story of Dalton, a philosopher hired to clean up bars. This Zen Bouncer ends up at the Double Deuce where we needs to get rid of the sketchy clientele, upgrade the staff, and change the mindset of how to operate a saloon. When retraining the bouncers, Dalton bestows his threes rules.

One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.

Be nice? How can a bouncer enforce the rules with the lowlifes who reside in the Double Deuce and be nice? It’s actually a pretty easy, effective way to lead.

If somebody gets in your face and calls you a [bad name], I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the other [bouncers] will help you, and you’ll both be nice. I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal.

Do you notice that Dalton does not instruct his bouncers to let patrons do whatever they want? Nor does he ease up on the high standards he sets for a safe, family-friendly tavern. No, being nice is about the manner in which things are done, not what you are actually trying to accomplish. This isn’t soft; this is supported by science.

A study by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that the most altruistic members of the team gain the highest status, are more frequently preferred as cooperative interaction partners, and receive greater rewards as their virtuous efforts increase.

A Research in Organizational Behavior study concluded that leaders who project warmth are more effective than those leaders who rely on force or competence—“warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas.”

Research in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that when leaders display behaviors related to self-sacrificing, their employees feel more engaged, committed, and are more likely to go out of their way to support other members of the team.

comprehensive healthcare study found that a culture of kindness not only improves employee productivity but also improves client health outcomes and satisfaction.

All together, the research is clear that a leadership model of trust, warmth, and mutual cooperation can serve as a powerful basis for a company’s culture. Just be nice. Emulate the Zen Bouncer and say, “If somebody underperforms, I want you to be nice. Provide constructive feedback. Be nice. If he won’t take your feedback, be more stern. But be nice. If you can’t turn around his performance, one of the other leaders will help you, and you’ll both be nice.”

The Four Ways Chris Farley Can Make You More Creative

chris farley linkedinheaderFor those of us comedy nerds, the new biopic, I Am Chris Farley, was something special. There wasn’t necessarily anything I did not already know, but it was a nice reminder of how incredibly funny Chris could be. With his pratfalls and quick-witted comments, Chris was a comedy legend before he turned 25.

From Second City to Saturday Night Live to his movies, Chris had an energy that made him the living embodiment of funny. Just wearing a tiny coat could stir a laugh, let alone competing with Patrick Swayze in a Chippendales dance off. It’s easy to understand how humor led to Chris’ success, but you may be interested in knowing that a comedic streak can aid your success, as well. Here are four ways humor can help you and your team be more creative and effective.

Problem Solving

Remember that time you were frustrated with your team and yelled at them? It may have felt good (for you), but research shows that improving their mood is a more effective way to boost problem solving skills. In a study by neuroscientist Karuna Subramaniam, participants who watched a comedy were significantly better at the task using insight than those who watched a horror film or a lecture on quantum electronics.

Karuna found that creative insight is correlated with areas of the brain that are responsible for attention and problem solving. By improving someone’s mood, increased activity in these regions prepares the brain for novel solutions, whereas generating fear decreased activity and inhibited creativity. As a result, you and your team can think more broadly, associate ideas more freely, and problem solve more effectively with an injection of humor.

Idea Generation

chris farley patrick swayze chippendalesIf you want to increase your team’s brainstorming skills, improvisational comedy training may be in order. In a study by Barry Kudrowitz, professional product designers and improvisational comedians were given a cartoon and asked to write as many captions as they could think of. The comedians produced 20% more ideas AND generated ideas that were rated 25% more creative.

The games used in improvisational comedy training provide trainees with the same skills needed in your meetings – associative thinking, spontaneous idea production, and the ability to make nonobvious connections between seemingly unrelated things. And good news, the research found that these skills can be taught; those who participated increased idea output on average by 37% in a subsequent product brainstorming session.

Enhanced learning

Are you familiar with the effects of humor on formal education? A study by psychologist Randy Garner found that students were more likely to recall a statistics lecture when the instructor incorporated topic-related jokes. This study has been replicated in numerous settings and has consistently demonstrated the need for humor-integrated learning.

Well-planned, appropriate, contextual humor can help students ingrain information. – Randy Garner


Humor does more than improve people’s understanding of the topic; it improves their desire to learn. In study published in Teaching of Psychology, instructors who inserted self-deprecating jokes and topic-related cartoons into their online course had a significantly higher log-on rate than those offering the same curricula minus the humor and received higher ratings on course evaluations.

Professors’ jobs are to educate, not to entertain, but if humor can make the learning process more enjoyable, then I think everybody benefits as a result. – Mark Shatz

You don’t need the skills of Chris Farley to interject humor into your organization’s culture. Harness your comedic abilities to lighten the mood, illustrate examples, and kick start those creative juices. It doesn’t diminish your authority; if anything, it will make you more influential…unless you try to replicate Chris’ Chippendales dance. If this happens, you are on your own.