Hello SOTGC community,
Professional women (still) live in a reality of double standards and confusing advice about what it takes to be successful in business.
- Be confident, but not too confident because people will think you’re a cocky narcissist.
- Be direct, but not too direct or people will call you bossy.
- Be yourself, but don’t you ever – EVER – let ‘em see you cry.
Seriously, weeding through all the rules is practically a part-time job.
Ain’t nobody got TIME for that.
Recently I was chatting about this Catch-22 phenomenon with some of my female colleagues. Specifically, we were discussing the ever-elusive concept of likeability.
For years we’ve been told we shouldn’t care whether people like us or not. In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg wrote about her first performance review with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when he told her that her desire to be liked was holding her back. She goes on to write that “success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.”
Seems reasonable enough, right?
Dr. Robert Cialdini is a psychologist, Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, and best-selling author. In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini writes that “liking” is one of the six universal principles of influence. In other words, people are more likely to say yes to you if they like you.
In his book, The Likeability Factor, speaker and business consultant Tim Sanders writes, “Likeability is more than important, it’s more than practical, it’s more than appealing. Likeability may well be the deciding factor in every competition you’ll ever enter.”
And, just to make things even more confusing, let’s talk for a minute about the closely related word, “nice.”
Last week I heard a business executive give a presentation on how to build strong professional networks and have more influence up, down, and across the organization. He closed with three simple words of advice. Just be nice.
Haven’t we been told time and time again that nice guys (and gals) finish last? There’s even a book out there titled, Why Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. I know one female leader who was told that her niceness gave the impression she was weak and “professionally immature.”
In my opinion, the answer to this puzzle lies in one simple question: Is being liked your motivation or your result?
If you are motivated by a need to be liked then you are operating out of a place of fear, and fear can lead to disastrous results for both you and the organization. It takes courage to initiate difficult conversations. It takes courage to make unpopular decisions that are in the best interest of the business. It takes courage to seek resolutions conflict by confronting conflict head-on.
If you consistently demonstrate behaviors associated with likeability (e.g. staying positive even in tough times, treating others with respect, listening with empathy, being flexible, staying calm in stressful situations) I can pretty much guarantee the result.
It all boils down to Emotional Intelligence (EI). People with high EI are just more likeable. And, on top of that, research shows that EI is the number one predictor of personal and professional success. People with EI are more likely to be top performers and make more money compared to those with low EI. Bonus!
The important thing to remember is that no one is ever fully cooked when it comes to EI. We all have room for improvement.
So, rather than worrying about being liked, focus instead on developing your EI skills. You will experience deeper levels of influence, success, fulfillment, happiness … and doggone it people will like you.
Please share this post with other likeable women like yourself!