Every leader worth their salt should be constantly re-evaluating their strategies, not just yearly, but quarterly and even monthly. Good leaders strive for improvement and efficiency and one way we can approach this challenge is to consider which choices create the best impact on and for our team.

My assistant shares my passion for continuous improvement. Recently, she challenged me in a profound way – she has a habit of doing that.

While talking about how both of us could make a bigger impact, she said, “We’re going to have to decide to do the right things vs. the nice things.”

I’m still processing the implications of this idea. However, I know she’s right. How often do we find ourselves trading the right thing for the nice thing? For me, I’m afraid it happens far too often.

What does this look like in your world? Below are some behaviors for you to consider. As you read the list, see if you can guess which are the nice things and which ones are the right things. I’m betting you’ll know the difference.

Nice Thing or Right Thing?

  • Set a new strategic direction, or stay the course to avoid challenging anyone?
  • Attend a portion of an all-day meeting, or stay all day so as not to offend the host of the meeting?
  • Challenge a team member who fails to prepare for a meeting, or avoid the issue?
  • Decline a speaking engagement, or accept every request regardless of the audience?
  • Dismiss an employee who can’t grow with the business, or keep the person on the payroll indefinitely?
  • Eliminate a program to reallocate needed resources, or sacrifice new ideas so outdated ones can be funded?
  • Have a difficult performance conversation, or continue to give inflated performance ratings?
  • Say “no” to non-strategic work, or say “yes” to non-strategic work?
  • Confront problems and issues, or avoid discussing problems at all costs?
  • Give stretch assignments to people and expect them to struggle, or avoid giving stretch assignments because they may create some discomfort?
  • Cut your losses when a product or program has failed, or continue to let a project flounder to avoid confronting the project leader?
  • Pursue truth through conflict, or avoid conflict because it makes some people uncomfortable?

As I’ve begun to talk about this issue with people, the immediate question is, “How can you tell the difference between the Right Thing and the Nice Thing?” That’s a fair question. Clearly, it’s not always as obvious as the examples above.

But here’s my experience – my challenge is not knowing the difference. My challenge is finding the courage to act on what I know.


This post was originally published at greatleadersserve.com.


Mark MillerMark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.