Yes, it’s something of a cliché but there is an essential truth to the idea that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. In any organizational or team setting people really do prefer partnering with colleagues they know, are personally attracted to, and have confidence in. We are not talking about friendship, but about being attractive and likable in a work relationship.

Some may think that being likable means being overly friendly or that they have to be obsequious, fawning, or pretend to be someone they are not. “That’s not the case,” said Maren Perry, president of Arden Coaching. “Likability is a leadership skill and it needs to be authentic. Part of being a true leader is being able to attract people to your vision and your work. That means they have to be drawn to you personally and find you likable.”

First, likability is a matter of self-awareness. How does your behavior effect those around you? What impressions and beliefs do people have of you?

Perry notes, “In executive coaching engagements we work to develop a strong sense of self-awareness and then, among other things, we develop a specific plan of action — taking measures to adapt your attitude and behaviors to become more personally attractive to others without compromising who you are.”

Know, like, and trust are characteristics that are built upon each other. You can’t like someone until you become aware of them and get to know them. For more about becoming known, read Arden Coaching’s “Why Networking Matters” and “Four Networking Traps to Avoid.”

Does Likability Really Matter?

Yes, it does! Findings from research reported in a Harvard Business Review article, “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks” written by Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo in 2005 continues to resonate.

The article reviewed research about how people select work partners. Of course, the opportunity to work with a company star, or a strategically placed senior leader to further your career is one way we try to select who we work with. “But in most cases,” the article stated, “People choose their work partners according to two criteria. One is competence at the job…the other is likability.” 

Obviously, we all want to work with highly competent and highly likable people. Similarly, we try to avoid those we consider incompetent and unlikable. What was interesting in the study was that, outside of the extremes, the research found that perceptions about likability played a more important role than competence in forming “job-oriented” relationships. The authors reported that the more someone is disliked, the more irrelevant competence becomes. If someone is liked, however, their colleagues will search for and leverage every morsel of competence that person possesses.

Create a More Likable You! Eight Ways to Become a More Likable Leader.

  1. Adopt a mindset that is as positive as possible. Work to be a “glass half-full” person. Invest your energy and expertise on ideas and solutions that will help move your company, department, or team forward.
  1. That means stop complaining! Complaining draws the energy out of those around you. It pushes people away. If you and your work friends spend time socializing and bonding by complaining, make new friends! 
  1. Let people see you and get to know you. It is well-established that people tend to like others more when they are used to seeing them around. Attend the monthly potluck lunch or gathering at a nearby restaurant. Volunteer to work on a cross-functional team that you would not normally be assigned to. Seek out social and work-related bonding opportunities. Any project or activity that depends on cooperation for success is a great candidate for making you better known and enhancing your likability.
  1. Ask more questions about others. This is also a proven networking tip. Make interactions with others more about them than about you. Be interested in learning about their life, interests, work challenges, and expertise. You’ll learn more about your colleagues, and they will appreciate and value your interest and attention.
  1. Be helpful. Share your expertise with others to help them solve a problem, develop a solution, or get their work accomplished. Your willingness to help will be genuinely appreciated and you’ll be known as an approachable and likable person.
  1. Ask for advice. When you ask others to share their expertise and insight you’re not only getting a boost for the project or problem you are working on, you are tapping into a wellspring of goodwill. Most people love being asked for their input, knowledge, and perspective. 
  1. Compliment others. When you sincerely appreciate the skills, values, hard work, point of view, expertise, or helpfulness of another person let them know it. The compliment must be real, but, if you look for them, positive things are happening around you all the time. It makes other people feel good — and feel good about being around you.
  2. Seek out similarities. We tend to be attracted to people who are similar to us. This ranges from our backgrounds and upbringing to people who share a love for mountain biking, cooking, or evolving best practices for customer service. Seeking opportunities to create shared identities and minimize differences will increase your likability.

To learn more about executive coaching and building leadership skills, contact Arden Coaching at info@ardencoaching.com or 646.684.3777.