It pays to be nice

Apprentice: Martha Stewart winner Dawna Stone says you don't have to wage war to win workplace battles.

By Dalia Wheatt, tbt* staff writer
Published August 28, 2007

Who says nice girls don't get the corner office?

Dawna Stone has earned that coveted work space on several occasions, including during her management stints at Active.com in La Jolla, Calif., and MarineMax in Clearwater. The 39-year-old's current digs overlook St. Petersburg's Salt Creek and house Her Sports magazine, a publication whose circulation has swelled to 75,000 since Stone founded it in 2003.

Stone, a triathlete and winner of NBC's The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in 2005, is about to add two more feathers to her cap: mom her baby girl is due in about four weeks and author. The St. Pete resident co-wrote Winning Nice: How to Succeed in Business and Life Without Waging War (Center Street, $21.99; 256 pages) with her husband, Matt Dieter. The book hits store shelves Wednesday. Stone chatted with tbt* about Winning Nice.

How do you distinguish between winning nice and being a doormat or an ineffective leader?

I have fired people for not doing a good job. I have been very tough in negotiations to get what I want. But there's a difference between being nice and being weak.

Let's go back to this firing thing for a second. In the promotional materials for the book, it says you can put a positive spin on anything, including firing an employee. What's positive about that?

Anybody who is not doing a good job typically isn't happy. And so I've found that actually some of the people that I've let go have, in the end, been happier in their new jobs. ... Most likely, if I hired the person in the first (place), they're probably a pretty smart and bright, intelligent person, and they're probably pretty capable. It may just be that they're not capable in the role that we've placed them in.

How could you possibly put a positive spin on sexual harassment? Because that was another claim of the book.

I've worked in a lot of male-dominated companies, and I don't know if it's as much saying it's a positive spin on how to make the best of a situation. I think the important thing is, know when to get out. ... Today, almost, it's easier to get ahead and continue to get promoted, to make more money, when you actually switch jobs. ... If the situation can't be changed, then take it upon yourself to change it by moving on and finding a position where you're going to be better off.

Winning Nicealso contains "eight steps to communicating with power." Which step was the hardest for you to learn?

We don't sometimes realize how we are saying things to people. ... For example, let's say you've just given your first big presentation, and your superior is in the conference room with you. You did a good job, right? So (it's) the difference between somebody coming up to you and saying, "I cannot believe that you did such a good job. I never thought you'd be good in front of that big of a crowd," versus coming up and saying, "We are so happy to have you on the team. You did such a great job. I'm so excited for you to do more of this." Very subtle, right?

Would you say that Martha Stewart is someone who wins nice?

If she were a man I often think that people would say, "Wow, Martha Stewart - the man - is so powerful and strong and such a great businessperson." And because she's a woman, sometimes that gets turned around.

What has all of your athletic experience taught you about winning nice at the workplace?

I think about just knowing that anything is possible, and that as long as you give it your all, that you can pretty much achieve all your goals. Visualize yourself actually, in sports, crossing the finish line, and in business, achieving everything that you want to achieve.


Dawna Stone

She joins husband and co-author Matt Dieter for a book signing 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Barnes & Noble, 500 Third St. S, St. Petersburg, (727) 873-2028.