Is there room for kindness in the business world? It’s not the secret to success that many business leaders will tout. Today’s show dives deep into this concept, with my knowledgeable guest proving that kindness and empathy are not synonymous with being a weak and spineless pushover. Join us to learn how to navigate the intricacies of workplace relationships with strength, grace, and dignity.
Fran Hauser’s career has left an undeniable wake of inspiration for many women in business. From her role as head of Digital Media for Time, Inc., to her influence as a startup investor, everything she touches turns to gold. It’s counterintuitive, but the source of Fran’s power is kindness. In her new book, The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving the Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate, Fran dismantles the idea that women need to be cutthroat in order to succeed. She is living proof that you can live, work, and lead with heart. She reminds us that success in life and business requires a deep connection to your core values, as well as a commitment to staying open. She has demonstrated through example that you can be both kind and powerful, empathetic and decisive, authentic and successful.
A Huge “Aha” Moment
Fran grew up in a traditional Italian family in a town not far from NYC, where thousands of immigrants from the same Italian city settled. She refers to her family as my “big, fat, Italian family.” Her parents spoke almost no English, but they started successful small businesses, with her mother being a tailor and her father as a stonemason. Fran, as the oldest child, was the office manager and the one to handle much of the business communication, since she spoke English well. This is where she learned the values of hard work, grit, and kindness. The big “Aha” moment for Fran came as she watched her mother interact with her clients with kindness and strength. Later, Fran became the first in her family to go to college, and then worked in finance before accidentally landing in the media business with MovieFone. This was the job that gave her exposure to many different aspects of the business world.
Fran was always drawn to startup founders, so she started advising and investing in startups as a side hustle at first. It wasn’t long before she left her job to do angel investing full-time and now has 20 companies in her portfolio. This move has been rewarding for her and has allowed her much flexibility. Writing her book is a by-product of this new flexibility. She pondered the idea for writing her book for 9 years before actually writing. A 2016 blog post for Forbes, “Nice Girls Finish First When They Ask the Right Questions”, was the impetus for the book, which has seen huge success in its first few weeks of publication.
The Problem for Women
The problem for women is the dilemma in which they find themselves: if they’re too nice at work, they are perceived as a pushover, and if they’re too tough, they are perceived as a bitch. They feel like they just can’t win with this balancing act! The message from Fran is that you don’t have to be someone you’re not. “Bring your qualities to work and they will serve you well to gain trust and form relationships with people.” Fran lets us in on the secret that being kind and empathetic does not mean you can’t be demanding and maintain high expectations as a business leader.
Standing Firm in Kindness and Strength
A leader has to make tough decisions. Fran shares a specific example of using kindness in getting input from her team, but making the call in product development. Many times, a woman has to stand firm in her final decision to move forward. Fran’s book perfectly covers bringing kindness and strength into each area of business leadership. She says that transparency goes a long way in bringing people along with your idea.
The Value of “Thank You”
Apologizing for trivial things makes you come across in a weak manner. Fran’s solution to this problem in her life was to replace “I’m sorry” with “Thank you.” She says, “Don’t apologize when there is no reason to apologize.” Women should replace these “speech weakeners” wth gratitude and not be afraid to be direct and tough, but still caring. Her advice is to be careful not to burn bridges or step on toes and to think about the way you treat people.
Learn to say No
Saying no is hard because “nice girls” want to make everyone happy. It’s hard to learn to say no graciously, but a kind way is to start the conversation with, “Thank you for the opportunity.”
Fran gives some examples of graciously declining in “lower-lift” ways. She says to find the sweet spot between yes and no where you can still be helpful. Fran explains why it is ok and entirely appropriate to not respond to some requests.
Giving Feedback and Handling Workplace Bullying
The key in giving feedback is how you start the conversation. Begin by being a supportive champion of this person and they are more likely to be open and receptive. In giving feedback, Fran says to be kind and patient above all. Regarding workplace bullying, Fran’s advice is to speak up and say something to a manager or human resources person when a colleague shows consistently bad behavior. Extricate yourself from this person and protect your team. In explaining the bullying, tie the behavior to how it affects your workplace performance.
Highlights of the Episode:
Twitter and Instagram: @Fran_Hauser
Visit www.franhauser.com/redeem to receive two free gifts! Find instructions on emailing your receipt for the purchase of Fran’s book to receive the Nice Girl Guide to Navigating the 10 Stickiest Workplace Situations AND the limited edition Nice Girl Bracelet from Little Words Project (first 50 orders only!)
Favorite book for women: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Favorite self-care hack? “Using the Meditation Studio app for 3-5 minute guided meditations every morning”
Best piece of advice and who gave it ot you? “Be open to feedback and view feedback as a gift.” - from her former boss at Coca-Cola
Female thought leader or CEO you’re into right now? Mindy Grossman of Weight Watchers
One piece of advice you’d give your five years younger self? “There is so much power in vulnerability. Not everything has to be perfect.”