Years ago I wrote an article on whether it was important to be liked to be successful. My readers weighed in on all sides of the discussion. Amazingly, this topic continues to come up over dinner tables, cocktail conversations, and even executive coaching sessions. There is a great new book written by Rohit Bhargava on the topic of “being liked”. He coins the name Likeonomics to describe how earning trust and indeed being liked does affect our ability to influence and inspire our followers. The book is a provocative read and worth picking up – if you believe your “bark” is as bad as your “bite”. A few key points from his book to consider:
1. Being humble is becoming and will “win friends and influence others”. How many times have we worked for a leader who steals the glory, or is more concerned about his career positioning than the overall health and well-being of the organization? We all know folks like this; and we may even have suffered from this insecurity ourselves at one point of another. We know this intellectually – yet, for some reason many fall into the trap of constantly trumpeting our successes and achievements. The irony is that the most successful leaders, when analyzed over time, are those that have a healthy dose of humility.
2. Vulnerability makes us human and approachable. I have written many articles on vulnerability and the power of true transparency. There is real connection with our employees, customers and teams when we share our secrets and concerns. They almost invariably will climb into the boat with us; and most everyone will root for our success. Let’s face it – folks like it when those that appear to be perfect or “above it all” let others see that we are all human. We all make mistakes, do things we wish we hadn’t, and even fall hard when attempting to achieve something which was a steep climb. Letting others see those foibles breeds approachability and keeps it real. And yes, folks like this.
3. Own it. The world is full of “yes” people – those individuals that seldom have their own point of view. They have learned to say what they think others wish them to say, and tend to agree with everyone – which really means they are not truly agreeing with anyone. One thing I have learned through my experiences is that I respect the individual who will stand tall, unwavering, when they believe strongly in their own point of view. This does not mean that they have to tick everyone off while paving their own way. On the contrary, when they humbly yet confidently stand their ground, they will earn respect, and again – more often than not – build a following.
4. Keep your mouth closed, and when it is open, KISS. My father always taught my sister and me to “engage mind before mouth”. I am still trying to master this instruction, as there are times when I wish I had just bit my tongue. One clear way to build rapport is to simply listen to the person who is talking to you. I have been amazed how folks will comment “what a great conversation” or “it was so wonderful catching up with you” when, after an hour-long discussion, maybe 5 minutes was truly a dialogue! Folks long to be heard. So, just closing our mouths, and actively listening is such an easy way to build relationships. And, when we do decide to engage, another acronym from my father – KISS (keep it simple, stupid) – is the magic touch. Small words, affirming comments, and engaging questions go so much further with others than trying to impress with fancy words, impressive theories, or long drawn out examples.
So does being liked matter? I come down on the side that YES, the likability factor is indeed an important factor in being successful. Yet, it is certainly not mutually exclusive to having our own point of view and the ability to stand confidently in our positions. What do you think?