Nice vs. Kind

Nice vs. Kind
Photo by Mykyta Martynenko / Unsplash

Several conversations in my life lately have been around the idea of being nice versus being kind. I’m not sure I grasped what this meant right away, but life has given me enough examples to help me start to figure it out.

Here’s one:

At work, this came up in the context of doing someone else’s assigned ticket. On a project, you might be nice by putting in a Pull Request to complete code that would move the project forward, even if the work isn’t assigned to you. The intent here is to do the work that needs done. Easy. We're all a team with the same goal.

But did you consider the impact this might have had on the person who was actually assigned the task? Do you know why they didn’t finish the task yet? Did they have a blocker, was gathering more info, or was it just a lower priority in their workload? Did you ask how they might feel about it? Would completing their task be helpful to both the team and the person?

In this context, the intention of being nice was to help grow the team by doing the work. But looking at the bigger picture, is this the impact you’re having?

Being kind in this scenario would begin with taking a thoughtful moment to consider how you might be helpful to the team and the individual. I think this starts with communication. Have a conversation about the task, its status, and where you might help out. This could look like a quick Slack chat or be done 2 minutes of a Standup meeting.

I think consideration for the team is most important. I’ve always loved being on great teams. I think that’s really why I played sports in school. It was about the people, relationships, the trust I grew. But we have to remember that teams are made up of individuals, and growing people also means growing the team.

If you’ve studied business some, you might be familiar with the concept of lead vs. lag indicators. The lead indicator is an input that drives you to a goal. The lag indicator is a resulting measurement. I think the growth of people on our teams is the lead measure and the team health is the lag measure. So, by focusing on the growth of individuals, of your teammates as people, you also grow the team as a result.

So, being nice is really about you doing something comfortable in the moment and not considering the impact on the other person. Being nice is easy.

Being kind is taking a more deliberate moment to consider the ongoing impact of your actions. How might you positively impact the other person? How might the team benefit from this? Being kind might not be as easy, but its impact is immeasurable.

Being nice is a win for you, being kind is a win for all.