February 6, 2018

The Importance of Likability

I learned early in my career the importance of likability – it’s not always about how much impact you have on a project or initiative…

One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou.  She said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

Think about this in the professional context.

When you look back on what you’ve accomplished, do you remember the specific metrics of success or the details of the project plan?  Probably not.  Instead, I bet you remember the people involved in the work and the likability of individuals helping to achieve your goal(s).

I define likability in a couple different ways. Of course, it’s about being pleasing or nice to others. But I also think likability is about your effort to connect with others and how approachable you are to those in (and out of) your community.

Throughout my work with individual clients and corporate organizations, I’ve learned that likability is a crucial ingredient to professional engagement. This makes total sense to me – engagement is so closely tied to how you feel about your current position and your future path.

But how do you become likable? Or how do you create a culture based on likability? 

I thought about these questions over the weekend, and various pieces of advice from my “Executive Committee” kept coming to mind. Thinking back over my 20+ years of professional experience, I’ve received a ton of input from these super-important people and I’d like to share their words of wisdom with you – especially if you’re asking yourself the same questions.

  • “Be nice to everyone in the organization, regardless of role or title.” From my grandfather. I love this quote because it’s about equality – treating everyone the same (with kindness) regardless if they’re the CEO or the Intern.  You’ll make an immediate impact if you start thinking this way – promise!
  • “Say ‘hi’ to people you pass in the hall.” From my first boss. I will never forget the feeling when I said “hi” to a leader in my first job and he didn’t say anything back to me (we were the only people in the hallway). What a sinking, horrible feeling that I’ll never forget. Don’t make this mistake, especially if you are a team/organizational leader!
  • “When in doubt, say ‘Yes’!” From my favorite mentor. Raising your hand to projects will help create a general “can-do” attitude for yourself. People like individuals who don’t see barriers, want to do more, and are willing to take risks. Be that person!
  • “Smile more” From a peer. This little change made a big impact on how I was perceived within the corporate walls. It also impacted MY attitude around work. To this day, I think to myself, “When in doubt, smile.” It totally works!
  • “Pay attention to the person in front of you.” From my dad. My father is a retired veterinarian and I worked in his clinic throughout high school and college. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was to acknowledge (and work with) the person in the lobby – not those calling or emailing. Give those people right in front of you the attention they deserve!
  • “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” From my favorite boss. I used to get so worked-up presenting to clients or working with Senior Leadership. All business and no personality. My favorite boss sat me down and said, “You know, Tom, people want to know about you just as much as they want to know about the work you’re doing.” That feedback has stuck with me forever and now I lead with more personality (instead of diving right into results – that comes later).

Your homework this week: Think about Maya Angelou’s quote above. Are you a contributor to likability on the job or not? Do people leave working with you feeling good or not so good? Do you need to focus on one (or two) pieces of advice from my “Executive Committee” above? Improving your likability will not only help your own professional engagement, but also positively impact those around you!

Coming-up next week:  Likability is super-important on the job, and extremely important when looking for a job. Next week I’ll write about ways to think about likability when you’re on your Engaged Pursuit (or helping someone on their Engaged Pursuit).

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

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