Do You Care If People Like You at Work?

Abundance Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: I’ve heard the following phrase often from leaders in various organizations: “I don’t care if people like me but I want them to respect me.” Really? Well, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, authors of I’m the Boss! Why Should I Care If You Like Me? have conducted and reviewed 360 data from 50,000 plus leaders and guess what? If you are not liked, there’s only a 1 in 2,000 shot that you will be rated as a top leader. Why? Because when determining whether you are likable, people commonly reference a key set of desirable characteristics that help them define likability. The following are the core likability drivers as determined by the 50,000 plus respondents. As you might expect, they have a lot of cross over with characteristics people find desirable in determining effective leadership. Here is what the authors’ research highlights: How would you rate yourself on each likability behavior?

Increase positive emotional connections with others. Just like the flu or a cold, emotions are contagious. If a leader is angry or frustrated, those feelings will spread to others. Conversely, if a leader is positive and optimistic, those emotions also spread. Be aware of your emotional state and work to spread the positive emotions. (LR: Over and over again, self-awareness and emotional intelligence shows up. Few people like crabby, negative leaders).

Display rock solid integrity. Do others trust you to keep your commitments and promises? Are others confident that you will be fair and do the right thing? We like leaders we trust; we dislike those we distrust. (LR: Making and meeting commitments becomes a huge part of establishing a culture of trust).

Cooperate with others. Some leaders believe that they are in competition with others in the organization but the purpose of an organization is to unite employees to work together in a common purpose. (LR: This is an important ingredient in the Abundant thinking described in the Character Triangle. If you are in it for yourself first, it will become evident. And people will be wary and filter your intent accordingly).

Be a coach, mentor, and teacher. Think about someone who has helped you develop or learn a new skill. How do you feel about that person? Most people have fond and positive memories of coaches and mentors. Helping others develop is a gift that is never forgotten.(LR: This takes a lot of personal energy, but to be a great and liked leader you need to learn to effectively coach and coach to effectively learn).

Be an inspiration. Most leaders know very well how to drive for results. They demand excellence. They insist that employees achieve stretch targets. In other words they push. And the best bosses do this as well. But that’s not all they do. The most successful leaders are also effective at pulling. They roll up their sleeves when necessary and pitch in with the team. They communicate powerfully. Inspiring leaders, as you might expect, are more likable. (LR: How balanced are you in pushing AND pulling for excellence)?

Be visionary and future focused. When employees do not clearly understand where they’re headed and how they’ll get there, they become frustrated and dissatisfied, feeling like passengers with no control and few options except complaining. Sharing a vision of the future and helping team members understand how to get there inspires confidence: It’s hard to like a leader who’s lost in the wilderness. (LR: This is one of the hardest things to do. Just because you think you know where you’re going, it’s not enough. You have to be relentless in connecting and translating your vision to others in ways that they really care and see the value in).

Ask for feedback and make an effort to change. Our 360 data show clearly that most people rate themselves more likable than their bosses, peers, and direct reports do. How can you bridge that gap? As the graph below demonstrates, there’s a strong correlation between a leader’s likability and the extent to which they ask for and respond to feedback from others. Feedback from others helps leaders to understand the impact (positive or negative) that they have on others. (LR: Likable and effective leaders are always asking for feedback and advice, not from a place of personal insecurity but one of improvement and growth).

Character Moves:

  1. Get feedback on how you are actually doing on the above leadership likability drivers.
  2. Find out which ones you might leverage better and make a game plan to improve. Most of us could get better in each area, but start by picking one or two that will give you the best likability ROI.
  3. As you execute your plan, get agreement from trusted colleagues to let you know if they see a real indication of progress. Determine measurable milestones that can be solid evidence of improvement. Then keep going on all the drivers.
  4. If you do, stop referring to that silly “I don’t care if they like me phrase.” If “they” don’t, the data suggests you are probably not a very strong leader.

Liked and Leading in The Triangle,