The Nice Guy - Hbr Case Study

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Paul Kennedy is a good fellow who trusts people, and he’s in line to become CEO of Daner Associates. Is he tough enough for the job?

The Nice Guy
by Russ Edelman and Tim Hiltabiddle
7:01 AM
Driving East on Clifton Boulevard Toward Downtown Cleveland
Damn. I’m still stuck in traffic. Accident ahead? Thank goodness Larry doesn’t show up these days until 11:00 at the earliest. I can get a lot done before our one-on-one later today provided Lisa finalized those projections for the European offices yesterday. Once she’s plugged the numbers into the forecasting model, we’ll have our economic case close to perfect. When I show Larry the expansion plans, he’ll give me one of those arm punches and tell me how great I am. Maybe he’ll say he’s finally ready to pass me the baton. We could jointly announce it at the company meeting next week. Poor Sheila. She didn’t look well this morning when I kissed her goodbye… Amy had the sniffles last night. Hope we’re not in for another winter cold. That’s two already this year. I don’t want Sheila to be sick on Friday. We’ve got reservations at Giovanni’s. Jeez, married 15 years already. Hard to believe. Can’t wait ’til she sees the diamond studs I bought her. Note to self: Remember to buy roses. [Brakes suddenly.] Whoa, it would be nice if you signaled, lady! Oh, I see,“Baby on Board.” The kid’s probably crying…. I remember that time, driving Amy to day care. She dropped her bottle and screamed her head off. Wow, Clifton’s a parking lot today. I’ll give Lake a shot. I may as well try to


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make some calls. Maybe Lisa’s in the office already.

7:14 AM
Heading Eastbound on Lake Avenue
[Calls Lisa on her cell.] “Hi Lisa, it’s me, Paul. Hey. I need to touch base on two things. First, how’s your mom doing? Did she have a good night?. …Uh huh.…I see.…Wow, I’m sorry to hear that. That’s really rough. Sheila sends her love. Please let Lilly know she’s in our prayers, OK? Also, I want to confirm that we’re all set on the expansion numbers. I need the model for my meeting with Larry at 1:30. …What?. …Oh, I see. What time is her doctor’s appointment?… Mmmm.…Uh, no, don’t sweat it. Just do what you need to do, and I’ll figure

When I show Larry the expansion plans, he’ll give me one of those arm punches and tell me how great I am. Maybe he’ll say he’s finally ready to pass me the baton. out a way to finalize the data. Who was helping you out, Lynne or Aaron?… Neither? Ugh. All right, all right. Call me when you’re on your way in to the office, OK? See ya.” [Hangs up.] Damn. This totally messes up my morning. Now I’ll have to try to hack my way through the spreadsheet before the meeting. I can’t imagine what it’s like taking care of a parent with a terminal illness. How awful. But Lisa’s really slipping. She was such a go-getter and a great operations manager, but her focus has been shot since her mother got sick. Last week she forgot to copy the latest Russ Edelman (russe@niceguystrategies .com) and Tim Hiltabiddle (timh@niceguy are the founders of Nice Guy Strategies, a consulting firm in Boston. 22

spreadsheets to the network. Not cool. Work used to be a big priority in her life. But now….I know she still loves Daner as much as I do. It’s in her blood. She’s always telling me how much better the work environment is since I joined ten years ago. That long? I can remember so clearly when Larry first told me about Daner Associates, the line he gave me. “Ad agencies are passé,” he said. Instead, he was starting a “new media” company. The notion of leaving a great job at TRH and joining his team was the furthest thing from my mind, yet the crazy guy pitched me so hard I couldn’t resist. And he was right. He knew that companies would need a strategic partner that could...
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