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If Mickey Mouse Has to Change—What Does That Say About You?

Russ Edelman, Author, Nice Guys Can Get The Corner Office
Mickey Mouse
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Guest Author Blog: "Mickey Mouse Is Mr. Nice Guy? Actually, Almost 2/3 Of People Surveyed Represent Mr. Nice Guy" by Russ Edelman, author of "Nice Guys Can Get The Corner Office"

Brook Barnes front page article in NY Times on November 5th, “After Mickey’s Makeover, Look for a Little Less Mr. Nice Guy” is a dead ringer not only for a Mickey Mouse makeover, but for the majority of people in their business and personal lives.

In Barnes’ piece, she speaks to the importance of Disney delivering a makeover to our beloved Mickey to keep him “relevant”, to keep him true to his traditional hallmarks of “adventurous, enthusiastic, and curious”, coupled with his original and uninhibited traits including “fistfights and playing some tricks on friends”. Her message, the message shared by Disney, is one in which Mickey needs to be more assertive rather than get “trapped in amber” and lose relevancy. To Mickey’s credit, he represents a 5 billion dollar per year revenue stream. Consequently, tampering with a winning formula will be tricky; however, it is recognized as a necessity to maintain the brand and reposition his importance for an entirely new generation.

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So what of The Overly Nice Guy?

The person suffering from Nice Guy Syndrome?

The person, be it man or woman, who represents nearly two thirds of our work force today? In the absence of having an annual income stream of 5 billion, what lessons can be learned from Barnes’ story and more importantly, the need to refine (and not reinvent) an icon to be a little less nice? In short…a lot. The reality is that a large majority of people, as reference in the two thirds figure, consider themselves Overly Nice. They are unwilling to speak up, they avoid confrontation, they don’t define reasonable boundaries and they are unwilling to make the hard choices that come with the bad cards that are often dealt. The Overly Nice Guy is ubiquitous and hard working; she wants to please people and often sacrifices her own success in favor of others winning. If you are not one of these Overly Nice Guys, I’d bet that you know someone who is, be it your boss, a peer or one of your team members.

Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office - by Russ Edelman

In surveying over 350 people, 46% of them being women, a clear answer became evident. This was reinforced through one-on-one meetings with some of the most well-reputed CEOs in the world. Speaking with executives from companies such as The Vanguard Group, Procter & Gamble , Ernst & Young, The Outback, The American Cancer Society, Cirque du Soleil and many others, a common theme emerged. In order to achieve greater success, one must be willing to have the courageous discussions up front.

Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines commented “The guy who is overly nice, is in effect, oppressing the people that works for him.” Herb and the culture of Southwest place a high degree of value on people being nice; however, they also recognize that being too nice can stand in the way of not getting the job done. Jon Luther, President of Dunkin Donuts (Brands) adds, “Nice guys must stretch outside of their comfort zones. They must pick a couple of spots that extend beyond their comfort zone – and then get used to it. With small and manageable bold steps, their behavior ultimately begins to change.” In all cases, no one was advocating that we as people become jerks or SoBs; instead, it was recognized that a balance must be struck. While the disadvantages of working with jerks are clear, it is a sensitive topic to discuss those that are overly nice or sufferers of Nice Guy Syndrome. The game plan for the Overly Nice Guy – stay true to Nice and in doing so, make sure that you can assert yourself more aggressively without converting to the dark side!

In Mickey’s case, his persona needs to be refined, but not reinvented, to remain relevant and interesting. For the rest of us, we may find that the steps that Mickey takes may be applicable in our professional and personal lives as well.

This post was written by guest author Russ Edelman, President & CEO of Corridor Consulting and co-author of “Nice Guys Can Get The Corner Office Eight Strategies for Winning in Business Without Being a Jerk.”