The ROI of Being A Nice Leader – Dave Delaney, Author & Podcast Host – Episode 63

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Learn more about the Nice Method Dave Delaney uses with Google, LinkedIn, FedEx, UPS to help leaders be nice. How it helps improve employee retention; team culture; and leadership skills.

THIS EPISODE AT-A-GLANCE

  • How being nice helps you to be a better leader
  • Dave’s path with his current work
  • The NICE method
  • Who benefits when using the NICE method?
  • Using the NICE method: An example
  • “If it’s a good fit, don’t be scared”

Full Podcast Transcription

Dave Delaney:
Being nice as a leader helps to retain talent, which can cost an organization a ton of money to replace talent. So it’s better just to be nice and keep the people, the good people that you work with. But also it improves communication, it helps with company culture as well. And so whether your C-suite or a manager or an individual in an organization, it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, it’s all about treating people the way you want to be treated. 

Sarah Panus:
Hi, my name is Sarah Panus. I have spent the last two decades driving digital content for billion dollar brands. Now I help content marketers build winning brand storytelling strategies and reduced feeling of overwhelm and confusion. Join me as we discuss strategy, creativity, confidence, and building a better connection with your audience. Think of this as a creative content marketing jam session mixed with chicken soup for the soul. This is the Marketing With Empathy podcast.

Sarah Panus:
Hey, Kindred Speakers. Welcome back for another weekly episode of the Marketing With Empathy podcast. I’m so glad to have you with us today because we are gonna talk about how leaders can be nice and ultimately it’s gonna be a conversation that will help you advance your own leadership skills. It will help your culture, it will help your teams, it will help you. So stick around because today’s guest is Dave Delaney. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, author of New Business Networking, creator of the NICE method which we’re gonna be talking about and unpacking today.

Sarah Panus:
He is the host of the Nice podcast, which is in the marketing podcast network, that this show (Marketing With Empathy) is also in the marketing podcast network. So definitely check out his podcast called the Nice podcast. And he’s also the founder of FutureForth. Dave is obsessed with helping fast growing tech companies, improve retention and culture with the NICE method. He’s an acclaimed communications expert who has worked with clients, including Google, LinkedIn, FedEx, UPS, and many more. He’s also appeared in several business books and many articles. So I’m super excited to welcome to the show, Dave Delaney. So welcome to the show, Dave. 

Dave Delaney:
Thank you. Yeah, it’s great to be here. 

Sarah Panus:
Excellent. I’m super excited about this. You know, when you say being nice, I think everyone goes to like – you being polite and having nice manners. Right? But you have created this whole thing called the NICE method. So just first before we really unpack the NICE method, the big picture – how does being nice help someone be a better leader? 

How being nice helps you to be a better leader

Dave Delaney:
Well, yeah. That’s a great question, Sarah. I think being nice as a leader helps to retain talent, which can cost an organization, a ton of money to replace talent. So it’s better just to be nice and keep the people, the good people that you work with. But also it improves communication, it helps with company culture as well. And so whether you’re C-suite or a manager or an individual in an organization, it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, it’s all about treating people the way you want to be treated. 

Sarah Panus:
Mm, okay. And I know today you’ve worked with an impressive list of big brands that I mentioned in the intro. So what got you on this path of doing the work that you do? 

Dave’s path with his current work

Dave Delaney:
Well, I’m Canadian. 

Sarah Panus:
So that just makes you extra nice. 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah, apparently. No, I think, for me personally, I’ve worked in communications, marketing communications, really my whole career. And I did some soul searching and number of years ago and really hit on the fact that, actually was speaking to some friends, kind of a little mastermind group and they were like, you’re a nice guy. Just talk about being nice. And, and the more that I kind of dug into that sort of idea, I came up with this nice method framework that I use to help organizations improve of retention and communication and culture. 

Sarah Panus:
Excellent. Okay. Well, I wanna dig in then to the NICE method more, so walk us through it. Tell us more about like how, how does it work? 

The Nice Method

Dave Delaney:
So, I do a couple of different things really besides podcasting and writing, as you mentioned, thank you. And writing and things like that. But when I work with an organization, what I do is I help really fast growing tech companies. And I, and I do that by first gauging what exactly is going on beyond behind the scenes. Often leadership feel that they, they have there’s a reason why they’ve hired me in the first place. So they have concerns. They have problem areas they want deal with, but also they don’t want to be complacent in success as well. So, part of that engagement involves my, observing, doing an anonymous survey with employees to find out exactly like what is going on, both from the leaderships point of view, but also from the team member point of view.

Dave Delaney:
And find, you know, where are the pain points and then making sure, or at least determining if they’re aligned and if they are then developing a strategy to help alleviate that, or at least bring, bring some light to the fact that maybe those issues are not quite clear or in sync. So with the NICE method, you know, really the core three key tiers of the NICE method, the first is to hear your team. The second is to avoid the rex. And the third is to celebrate and consider life outside the walls of, of your organization. So it’s digging into all those three kind of key areas to improve communication and culture ultimately, and hopefully not lose team members in the process. 

Sarah Panus:
And NICE, NICE is an acronym. Right? 

Dave Delaney:
It is and it isn’t. 

Sarah Panus:
Okay. Tell me why.

Dave Delaney:
Well, like initially when I came up with it, I thought of the “N” as the needs assessment. So it’s determining like what, where the pain points are. The “I” about increasing social and emotional intelligence. The “C” is communication mastery and like improving communication. And then the “E” is about empowering employees and empathy is part of that as well. But it’s funny because yeah, sometimes when I deliver the ROI of NICE as a keynote or as an interactive, you know, presentation, if I do it like virtually I do it quite a lot as, as a virtual talk. I’ll sometimes I’ll use third party tools to be on the, the web platform to be on the webinar platform to kind of engage with the audience. When I speak, I love to engage with the audience and kind of interact a little bit. And so I like to see what they think NICE could stand for as it applies to that. And, and so that’s kind of fun to see what their mind where their heads are at with it. So that’s what I kind of answer. 

Sarah Panus:
Gotcha. Okay. So then hearing your team avoiding the wrecks, celebrating like life outside the org. So who in general, like benefits the most from going through the NICE method and the work that you do? 

Who benefits when using the nice methoD?

Dave Delaney:
Yeah, that’s the beauty of it is everybody because like I’ve, I bring experience through my own career. I’ve worked for great bosses and I’ve worked for not so great bosses. And I’ve learned what to do and what not to do from, from those experiences and from talking to many people over the years about, about this stuff. And so ultimately it’s great because like I wanna help obviously the leadership of an organization, cuz they’re the ones who are hiring the, and I wanna make sure that they’re, they’re getting, the return on their investment in working with me. But at the end of the day, if they are using the NICE method, then their team members are gonna be happier and they’re gonna be more connected. And I’ve been on the other end, I’ve been in the cubicle dealing with kind of a jerk boss and so forth. So it’s a win-win that way because then the team members also have better management and better workplaces and better culture and communication. So they’re happier too. So it’s, that’s why I was saying it’s sort of a, win-win all that.

Sarah Panus:
Yeah. And you talk about the ROI of NICE, which I love. What is the ROI of NICE? 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah, the ROI of NICE. So part of it is, so SHRM did a study about of years ago, The Society For Resources Management, and they found that it costs between six to nine months an employee salary to replace that person if they quit. So for an employee making like say $60,000, it costs the organization between $30,000 to $45,000 to recruit and replace that person. And multiply that by how many people leave, right, or who leave your organization. At futureforth.com, by the way, I have what I call the great resignation calculation. So I’ve actually built a little calculator on the website that factors in this, these numbers so that, because I’m terrible with math really, so that way you can enter the salary, the person who you are concerned might be leaving, or somebody who’s going to leave or something like that and, and get an understanding of just how much it’s gonna cost you. So take that number, apply the NICE method and save having to spend that money. And that helps to start determine this return on investment.

Sarah Panus:
Gotcha and that’s six to nine months just for like the upfront on top of whatever the new salary is gonna be for that person. Right? I mean, so that’s the addition.  

Dave Delaney:
That’s right, yeah.

Sarah Panus:
Wow, that’s a lot. And I know from a ROI of NICE perspective, you have an amazing, free webcast on your website too, that you offer. I listen to that in advance when I was prepping for our conversation today, which is so great. Tell everyone a little bit more about that because I think that’s a great way to go even deeper. I think everyone listening, I would say today’s conversation is sort of a preview and teaser and we’ll get into some of it, but that goes into even more details. And then of course the most details would be working directly with Dave. Tell us a little bit more about that webcast and where that is and what you cover in that. 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah. So the webcast is basically an on demand, 30 minute kind of quick version of the ROI of NICE keynote presentation that I do. So I speak at a lot of conferences and for private events as well. I speak at retreats and things like that. I try to encourage companies to invest in retreats anyway, just cuz bringing your team members together. So if you go to futureforth.com, there’s a link in the upper left corner or in the footer of the site, to get to the webcast. And basically, yeah, you can sign up there it’s completely free and it’s basically a 30 minute version presentation, so it’s visual. But it, I get into exactly how you can take these, I give you ideas as a leader to apply right away today to start improving everything at your work and with your team members. So I get into the NICE method framework, I share that. I get into topics around hearing your team and around avoiding the rex. And around life outside the walls and how to apply all of that to the work that you do. So, you know, fix a sandwich, grab a coffee and hit play and spend 30 minutes watching a short video and you’ll get an idea, but yeah I include a lot of great free content in that.

Sarah Panus:
Awesome. There was two in particular that I really like that I wanted to talk with you about here, which was you gave a lot of great tips on how to like improve our communication skills with each other. And there was two that I thought were really probably relevant for my audience and things that we can just incorporate today in some conversation, I’m sure. And one you called it “the NICE and…” and then the other was, “So what you’re saying is…” Could you give us an example of how to do each well? Cause I think that these are just great examples to add to our communication toolkits as coms pros. 

USing the Nice method: An example

Dave Delaney:
Yeah. No, that’s great. And so I have a background with improv, actually I studied at Second City in Toronto where I’m from. And have performed improv over the years, all over the place, Ireland, Scotland, The U.S. and Canada. Yeah, I’m bit of an improv nerd. I love improv comedy and standup too.

Sarah Panus:
Amazing. That sounds terrifying to me to do improv comedy cuz I’m not a funny person. So that is absolutely amazing that you were good at that and capable of doing it. 

Dave Delaney:
But well, the thing with improv, the beauty of improv, is that it doesn’t have to be the point is not to try to be funny necessarily. But let the human naturally come out and so that’s part of the performance side of that. So in improv, there’s this rule called “Yes and…” and I modeled “Nice and…” basically from “Yes and…”. And the reason why I like “Nice and…” is it’s a little more empowering and a little less, not less agreeable, but it’s less with a yes where you’re gonna say yes to every idea under the sun, you know, in the workplace. Instead using “Nice and…” works. So the way it works in training, I get everybody involved to start sentences and have a dialogue using “Nice and…”. Now of course you wouldn’t do this naturally, but this kind of gets into the mindset of leading with acceptance and being more empathetic and how, how you accept ideas. So, give me like an inanimate object. 

Sarah Panus:
A book. 

Dave Delaney:
Okay. So I’ll say, so all you have to do is say “Nice and…”, and then fill in the blank. So, “Hey Sarah, I’ve got a brand new book.” 

Sarah Panus:
Nice and what is it about?

Dave Delaney:
Nice and it’s about working and building a podcast network. 

Sarah Panus:
Oh, nice. And what is this network gonna do for you? 

Dave Delaney:
Nice and it will grow our business together because we’re both on the network. 

Sarah Panus:
Oh, nice. And then we could like be on our shows and talk about it more? 

Dave Delaney:
Nice and that’s a great idea. And then we could sell the book and make millions of dollars. 

Sarah Panus:
Nice and then I’d go to Hawaii. That sounds amazing. 

Dave Delaney::
Excellent job. Round of applause for Sarah. So then, the way “Nice and…” works is that you are accepting things. So what happens in the reverse of this is that, and what happened to me in a job once, is I offered an idea for a product to the boss and in front of like the whole team. And the boss, instead of saying “Nice and…” he said, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. 

Sarah Panus:
Ouch. 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah. And so naturally I did not share any other ideas in my tenure there and just felt like a big jerk. So he could instead, so the idea here is not to obviously accept every idea under the sun. That would be crazy. But as a leader, if you lead with “Nice and…” you’re leading with acceptance. And empathy too, because you’re saying “Nice and Sarah, why don’t we talk about that idea after the meeting so I can find out more about idea you have” OR “Nice and Sarah, let’s talk to customer service and see if this is something our customers are asking for” OR “Nice and I like this idea, why don’t we try it this way?” So by doing this, it slows you down as a leader from just rejecting every idea under the sun, right? It’s easy to say, no. 

Dave Delaney:
“Nice and…” this mindset and this approach using nice and slows you down long enough to even think about it. And believe it or not, instead of just saying, no, you could say “Nice and…”, and then go talk to customer service. Or go talk to your actual customers or talk to sales and find out if this is something they have been and asking for something they need because as it may turn out, this might be a really great idea. Or it may be an idea that if you dig it a dig in a little deeper and have a coffee after the meeting, and just tell me more about it or over lunch or something like that, then you could find out, okay, well maybe Sarah, wasn’t communicating it quite as well as she could have. Now that we’ve had a coffee, I totally understand where she’s coming from. And yeah, this is a great idea. So this is how ideas come and without this kind of acceptance and leading with this acceptance then everything gets rejected and innovation never happens. 

Sarah Panus:
And I think this is so important and why I loved listening to this example when I first heard it and on your webcast. You know, we work in a creative industry and everyone listening right now, you are very creative. You work with creative people, you lead creative people, or you’re part of these creative environments. And it is the example you just gave Dave of I’m saying, that’s the stupidest idea ever you’re right. There’s nothing that’ll kill creativity or team culture and openness and dialogue and great ideas faster than just shutting down people’s ideas. And so I think this is such a great, very applicable thing that people can just start doing right away whether in any feedback that you’re giving. So I would love everyone listening, try this. Try this today, try it tomorrow, try it this week. Just try it in a conversation and see how it goes. 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah, absolutely. And when I do a workshop or training with organizations, it’s really fun being cuz when the leadership team or the whole company, depending on the size of the company are all using “Nice and…”. Actually I had a previous client that I was following up with a while back and she was telling me that there was a smaller company, maybe 50 people or so. And they were all like coming together and for kind of like an all hands type of meeting and the CEO or the boss was offered an idea. And he said, no. And they were all like “uh, uh, uhh”. 

Dave Delaney:
“Nice and…” and he is like, “Nice and…” then it was like, it turned out to be a really great experience. And that idea ended up coming to some fruition as well, I believe so. Anyway, it’s fun hearing that feedback when you know, it’s great as you’re saying for everyone listening to try to approach your day and the conversations you have using this “Nice and…” mindset and even saying it. But once you get your team, once you get everybody on board and everybody is saying it’s magical, it’s really cool.

Sarah Panus:
I could see this working so well in our personal lives too. Right? I’m just thinking, oh, I’m gonna use this on my husband and my kids. I think it would result much better conversations. So telling my kids no all the time, I’m gonna do “Nice and…” I love that. Okay, and then the other tip that you had said was, a way for communicating skills better. Which so what you’re saying is, which is great from a recap perspective, but talk us through that example for people listening. 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah. So mistakes happen the portion of the avoid the rex tier avoid. You know, rex often happen in organizations because communication just breaks and something is miscommunicated or misunderstood. So by just saying, so what you’re saying is, so when somebody gives you some direction, you lead with “So what you’re saying is”. So if you say, “Hey Dave, I need this package sent to our New York office and it’s gotta be there by 9:00 AM Monday morning”. I would say, “So what you’re saying is, this package, 9:00 AM, Monday morning, in New York at our office. Is that what you’re saying, Sarah? Is that what you’re saying?

Sarah Panus:
Yes. Confirmed.

Dave Delaney:
Right, exactly. So a few different things happen magically, when you say it at out loud. First of all, your brain picks up on the fact that you are now verbally repeating something. So you’ve heard it and now you’re verbally repeating it. So your brain’s like, huh, all right, this must be important, cuz he’s saying it.  So it helps you to retain and remember this information. A great example of this by the way is, if you’re, you know, back to the office. Remember when we work from offices? And you’re walking down the hallway and somebody’s walking toward you, let’s say it’s your boss. And, and she says, Hey, you know, something tells you to do something or whatever it is. And then you get back to your desk and you sit there and you’re like I can’t remember. 

Dave Delaney:
Right? So just by saying, just by repeating it out loud. But it also then lets the person who’s giving you this information or this request, they believe in you, they trust you. They’re like, okay, Sarah, just repeated the information. So she knows, she understands 9:00 AM, Monday morning. Right? And it also helps to prevent issues or prevent confusion cuz if you said 9:00 AM, Tuesday morning or, in our Buffalo office rather than Manhattan or whatever it is. So just by repeating the information, you make sure that you’re getting it, you’re receiving it correctly and the person then feels trust in you because you’ve just repeated it. So it’s just a great way of repeating it and by the way also works in your favor.

Sarah Panus:
I could see that. You know, I liked it too because how, how many times as well are we in conversations with people and then maybe the other person isn’t being as clear as we ideally wanna be or they’re just thinking something out loud and so they’re processing it. So I think in those like ideation discussions, when you recap it like that at the end, I think it helps give everyone clarity. Like you’re saying cuz then, and just to make sure you took away from it, what they took away from it too. So I think that’s it’s a great reminder, you know, again, another arsenal piece in our toolkits just to be better communicators on a day to day basis. So I thought those were super applicable for my audience. 

Dave Delaney:
Thanks. Yeah, thanks a lot. Yeah, I really do, I do find it helps so much just as I mentioned, repeating information out loud. You know, my book is called New Business Networking and I wrote a lot about networking nicely and going to call conferences and meeting people and so forth. But you know, a lot of people say, oh, I can never remember someone’s name and the same rule applies. Like if you say, you know, oh, it’s great to meet you, Sarah. You know, and then you talk a little bit more and you’re like, oh, that’s a great idea, Sarah. Okay, well, it was great meeting you, Sarah. Nice seeing you and I’ll follow up, you know, bye Sarah. Yeah that many times, cause that’d be weird but over a period of time. But just again, by repeating the person’s name that helps you remember that information. So it’s the same, it’s the same sort of concept there. And all of this is in that ROI of NICE webcast on my website. 

Sarah Panus:
Perfect. Okay. So is there anything else I should ask you about the NICE method that I haven’t already asked yet? 

“If it’s a good fit, don’t be scared”

Dave Delaney:
Oh, that’s a great question. I think we’ve definitely scratched a surface on it. One question I get a lot is, oh Dave, I work for a real estate company or I work for a healthcare company. I’m not a tech company. And on my website, I say I try to focus on serving fast growing technology companies and VCs and you know, those invested in fast growing tech companies. However, I’m also, you know, if it’s a good fit, don’t be scared. And also most businesses these days are actually tech companies, whether you know it or not. I mean your healthcare company is probably, if it’s a SAS, it’s probably a tech company too. So anyway to that point, don’t let the language scare you away if you’re not a tech company. But I do my sweet spot in technology just cuz I’ve worked for software and hardware companies. And I’ve had, you know, clients like you mentioned Google and LinkedIn and others. 

Sarah Panus:
Yeah, perfect. Okay. Well, I like making things really actionable for folks. We’re just about ready to wrap up, but before we end, what would you say is like one or two things that you would want my listeners to do as a takeaway after listening today?

Dave Delaney:
Reach out to me. Oftentimes, when you listen to a podcast or you read a book or a blog post or whatever, you go on to the next thing, but instead to reach out. You know, I’m at Dave Delaney in all the places. Or my emails, dave@futureforth.com. So you can reach out, say hello. Let me know what you thought of our conversation and if you have questions. I’m not some pushy sales type or anything like that. So yeah, just don’t be shy, reach out. 

Sarah Panus:
Oh excellent. And I’m gonna make sure too in the show notes, everyone, I’ll put all the links to the places we’ve been talking about. So I’ll put Dave’s contact information there and I’ll put that free 30 minute webcast for the ROI of NICE. And your, Is it the resignation calculators that you called it? 

Dave Delaney:
Yeah, the great resignation calculation. 

Sarah Panus:
So I’ll put links to all of that in the show notes. So if you’re listening to this on the go, just click on in and you’ll be able to see that link and then you can find all the ways to connect with Dave. So then Dave, I was just gonna ask how people can find you online, but you already gave us a great say, which was @davedelaney everywhere. Do you have any primary social channels that you spend more time on than others? 

Dave Delaney:
I’m on, I’ve been on Twitter for like 15 years now, so I tend to be on Twitter a fair amount. You can find me on LinkedIn too just remember to send a customized connection request. Otherwise, I’ll just probably ignore it. I just normally, I have this whole process of dealing with LinkedIn connection request. But the key thing is always to include a personal note when you’re sending a connection request to let the person know, how you know each other or why you want to connect. I think that’s a good tip, not just for connecting with me by the way that’s for anyone. But yeah, I’m @davedelaney on most of the social networks. So you’ll find me. I’m not doing the TikTok thing.

Sarah Panus:
Well perfect. Thank you for joining. I think that’s a great overview on how the NICE method works, who it benefits, how it helps us be better leaders, how it can help with employee retention, just improving culture and driving an ROI both personally and then for the business which is great. So thank you so much, Dave, for joining us today. This is a great conversation. 

Dave Delaney:
Thanks so much, Sarah. And remember everybody, if you enjoy the podcast to leave a review for Sarah and share it. Because that is one of the nicest things you can do for your fellow or not your fellow, but your podcasting friends is rate and review and share because that’s always a nice thing. 

Sarah Panus:
Aw, thank you. I appreciate that. And I did not ask him to say that folks, so thank you. Yeah, definitely check out Dave’s podcast too, the Nice podcast and check out more of what he has to say over there. So until next time, Kindred Speakers. 

Closing Remarks

Sarah Panus:
Hi fives for finishing another episode. When faced with an obstacle, you’re the type of person who gets better instead of bitter. I hope you feel creatively inspired and invite you to check back often for more goodness from me and my guest. If you want more actionable advice and inspiration head over to kindredspeak.com for show notes, all discount codes from today’s episode, and to sign up for my newsletter. Subscribe now to the Marketing With Empathy podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify and wherever else you get your podcast. And if you’d be so kind, will you please leave me a review. This helps my podcast get noticed by others. Keep smiling.

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ABOUT SARAH PANUS

Sarah Panus is a brand storytelling marketing strategist, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps corporations attract upper-funnel leads that drive bottom-funnel results through storytelling.  Her mission is to add value to the world by humanizing brand+consumer connections. Her online courses teach content professionals inside corporations think like Editorial Directors for their brand to drive stronger results while enjoying their jobs more.  She’s spent the last 20 years helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others, speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Learn more at www.kindredspeak.com. Follow Sarah on Instagram and LinkedIn.