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The power, and danger, of being liked

There’s a scene in Rush in which the F1 drivers are arguing whether or not they should race the Japan Grand Prix. The weather is questionable…but it’s the last race of the season and the points for the championship are very close. Niki Lauda (played brilliantly by Daniel Bruhl) calls an all-driver meeting to discuss the cancellation of the race. His justifications are reasonable and logical – it’s not worth the danger to continue in the race. James Hunt (played equally brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth) steps in and sways the crowd, arguing that Niki only wants to cancel the race because it will clinch the championship for him. He uses emotion and charisma against logic and fact. The vote is taken – the race is on.

As Hunt walks out of the room, he leans over to Lauda and says: “You know, Niki, every once and a while, it does help if people like you.”


James Hunt is right – it does help if people like you. You’re more likely to get hired if you’re likeable. You make friends more easily. Likeable sales people tend to have higher close rates. Hell, some people argue that Hillary would have won, if only she were more likeable. (And we can unpack THAT little statement another time.) In general, likeable people seem to go through life with a little extra verve and a little less friction.

Being likeable means being relatable to people. If someone feels like they can go and have a beer with their leader or coworker, it humanizes the person, highlighting commonality and empathy. It’s an important trait to cultivate if you’re trying to influence and lead. The grumpy, no nonsense boss of the past only gets so far. Same with the person who is always right and lets you know it. Look around your organization at who gets promoted – is it the charismatic leader that motivates people, or the sharply intelligent person who rubs folks the wrong way now and then in pursuit of truth?


If the above paragraph made you think, “Wait…there are a lot of charismatic douchebags who got promoted at my company and they can’t do shit…” then congratulations! You’ve found the danger of being liked. Too often, being liked is valued over being smart or thoughtful. Being liked can be addictive. People crave it and will sacrifice anything – logic, values, integrity, partnerships – as long as they keep that likeability. The need to be liked can lead to awful business decisions and really, really crappy leadership. Managers who want to be liked have a really hard time telling their employees that they aren’t doing a good job…because what if the employees don’t like that manager anymore???

I’ve seen too many teams struggle with artificial harmony because they think debate means someone doesn’t like them, and the thought of not being liked is TERRIFYING. Fear of not being liked too often keeps mouths shut or breeds defensiveness during serious conversations. It causes people to use gossip as currency and undermines relationships. Chasing likeability will hurt you in the long run – especially if it’s obvious that you’re trying too hard (see aforementioned charismatic douchebags).


So what to do? Be the jerk who is sure you’re always right? Be the charmer everyone loves even though deep down, you aren’t always making the best choice?

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. If people “like” you, it usually means that they trust you on some level. Personally, I’d rather be trusted than liked. I’d rather people think I have character and competence over popularity. In truth, I suspect I’m more like Niki Lauda than James Hunt. But I recognize the power of likeability and want to spend its value wisely.

You get some grace when making mistakes because people trust you’ll do right by them. If you’re always going by “gut instinct” and never consider logic and facts in your decision-making, you’re apt to lose that grace fairly quickly. On the flip side, people who rely entirely on logic and facts are typically seen as cold or non-empathetic. Despite the fact they’re often right, people don’t trust it because they aren’t seeing the human side of the decision-making. Tempering logic with likeability and balancing charisma with critical thinking can go a long way.

Next time someone gives you feedback that you need to be more “likeable,” consider what that means. Do you need to be more open to feedback? Do you need to be more approachable? Do you need to build more relationships? These are all good things to work on. But if they use “likeable” to mean you need to be more outgoing and smile more, feel free to keep on keeping on.

After all, James Hunt only won one F1 championship. Niki Lauda won three.


[Author’s note: Ironically, even Lauda liked Hunt. Despite the way their rivalry was presented in the film, Hunt and Lauda were good friends. Lauda said Hunt was one of the very few he liked, a smaller number of people he respected and the only person he had envied.] 

[Author’s note, Part 2: I really like that movie.]

 

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It’s been a tough week…

Lots happened this week.

Many people are reeling.

Here’s a picture of a kitten in a car.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The “problem” is not the problem

I apologize to those of you out there looking for a return to the leadership content I often post here. This post is fairly HR-centric…although there are definitely leadership underpinnings, because doesn’t everything have leadership underpinnings? That’s just a fancy way of saying I want to share some thoughts that may or may not pertain to you. Also, the title comes from a quote from Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean: “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”

So here we go.


The online HR community has been growing, which is a good thing. In the early days, there was a handful of HR pros out on social media, blogging, tweeting, doing their thing. That number has grown exponentially, resulting in a wider network for people to connect with others who are doing the same work and facing the same problems. There are more bloggers, more tweeters, more voices out in the universe sharing their thoughts. Not everyone agrees with everyone else, and I think that’s a good thing. Healthy conflict drives innovation. Let’s do it.

Then there was a hashtag.

When the #HRTribe hashtag first appeared, some people loved it, some people were indifferent, and some people were really bothered by it. In the early days, though, it wasn’t really talked about openly. It was sort of a “meh, whatever” situation. Hashtags come and go, no skin off anyone’s nose.

A little time goes by and some folks begin to voice their discomfort with the term. The reasons are varied – the idea of the need for any label at all is a bit off-putting; there’s an “us vs them” exclusionary mentality growing; the word “tribe” itself holds a specific meaning and is being misused in this context. Like I said…a lot of variety in those reasons.

For the record, I’m not a huge fan of the term. I’m hovering somewhere between uncomfortable with the word “tribe” and “why do you need a label” in my reaction to it. I’m not militant about it. I just don’t use the hashtag. Early on in the growth of it, I suggested that if people really wanted to make it “inclusive,” maybe they should stop tagging specific folks on Twitter because it was sending a different message than was intended. That seemed to be good. I moved on, once gain – not using the hashtag, but not getting all up in arms about it, either.

But then hrmemes (a satirical instagram/twitter account, by the way – sort of like The Onion) posted a fairly funny image about the #HRTribe stuff:

(Seriously – this is funny.)

The resulting discussion on Facebook was…enlightening. Suddenly, people who had stayed quiet about the issue started speaking out, and frankly, I was surprised at the number of folks who shared they had felt excluded because of the hashtag. That they felt like there was a wall put up between them and those who would use it. And that they were somewhat afraid to speak out because they didn’t want to “stir the pot.”

Huh.

Look, I’m okay with people wanting to feel like they are part of a community. If a hashtag helps you feel connected, great. Godspeed. #blessed. Whatever.

But there are things I’ve seen and heard that bother me. And it’s primarily around how those who are pro-hashtag are responding to those who have said they don’t like it.

This is what I said on the Facebook discussion, and I stand by it:

Here’s an observation from seeing the discussion on HR Tribe usage across all social media platforms. I keep seeing those who like the term dismiss the experiences or views of those who dislike the term. When specific examples of exclusion are given, they tend to be dismissed because the intent isn’t exclusionary. 

I get that.

And yet, here we are, a bunch of HR professionals who are supposed to listen to people’s stories and meet them where they are in their experiences…telling them they’re wrong. 

I’m bothered by that.

Regardless of how you feel about the use of the term, it’s the reaction of those around it that is starting to rub me wrong. Replace “I felt excluded” with “I felt harassed” and suddenly it takes on a different flavor, doesn’t it? 

No…HR Tribe is NOT an earth-shattering thing that we should lose our collective shit over. But maybe the way we’re talking about it should be.

Notice the focus – it’s not on the hashtag. It’s on the way we are talking about the hashtag.

I am disappointed that there are HR professionals dismissing the concerns of their peers in a manner that is disrespectful. I am bothered that some are HR professionals trying to convince someone who has shared their discomfort that it’s the other person’s fault that they misread the intention and that if they just tried it they would like it. I am seriously rolling my eyes when I see HR professionals reacting passive aggressively or rudely when someone has shared that they feel excluded because of the term.

How people are talking about this reflects how they would handle any controversial topic in the workplace. We are supposed to be a group of people that employees can go to and share their concerns. If someone came to you and said, “Ted from Accounting is making me feel uncomfortable,” should the response be, “Oh, Ted doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just a friendly guy. You just misunderstood what he was doing”? I would hope not. And PLEASE don’t come at me and argue that a meme isn’t the same as harassment – yeah, I know. But it’s not a giant leap in logic, either.

Frankly, I’m shocked at the amount of passion and emotion around this thing. Some people have really doubled-down on their viewpoint. It’s a freaking hashtag. Yet it apparently has triggered some discussions that need to happen.

To be clear, there have been a number of people who love the hashtag who have said, “I get what you’re saying. Thanks for sharing. I’m still going to use it, but I will be more aware of how it makes people feel.” I love that. There are people listening, reflecting, and then making a conscious choice for a specific reason. There are also a number of people who have reached out and said, “I am glad someone said it. The tribe thing has bothered me for a long time but I didn’t want to say anything.” I love that, too. It means people want to have the conversation.

If we are going to be a profession that claims we can be a safe space for employees to bring forward their #metoo moments, or anything else that breaks the law, then we need to prove it. As Dominique Rodgers said during a Twitter conversation: If a group of kind, educated professionals can’t have this slightly awkward conversation, our nation has no hope for the much bigger awkward conversations that need to happen. Please don’t retreat. We value all perspectives. Promise. 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2018 in Authenticity, culture, Uncategorized

 

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#SHRM18: Style or substance?

As #SHRM18 winds down and 20,000 +/- HR professionals get ready to head home, it’s time to reflect a bit on what we saw, heard and learned during the conference.

My fellow SHRM Bloggers have been sharing amazing content throughout the conference, and I encourage you to read what they’re writing. Many of them are breaking down the sessions and highlight key takeaways, and you should definitely go read what they’re writing.

Thinking about what I’ve seen this week, my challenge to you as you go home is to think about style vs substance. No doubt you saw a number of speakers who entertained, energized and basically showed you a good time. That’s great! It’s always fun to see that kind of speaker.

Now…what did you learn from them? When you go back to your workplace and your coworkers ask you what you like about the conference, what will you tell them? Will it be about the fun you had? Will it be about what you learned? Will it be both?you-cant-have-style-if-you-dont-have-substance-quote-1

My hope is it’s a mix of both. Don’t confuse “fun” with “learning.” Don’t confuse entertainment with takeaways. Again – there is nothing wrong with fun and entertainment. Both of those things can help drive home the content and ensure you remember what the speakers wanted you to remember. But what will you apply? Can you recreate the feeling of the session you were in back home? Can you share the content of the session you were in with your team?

As leaders, we all struggle with the balance of style or substance. We see leaders who are charismatic and high energy gain popularity…and ultimately burn their teams to the ground because they have no freaking idea what they’re doing. We see leaders who are incredibly smart and capable fail to get ahead or gain buy-in because they lack the “spark” that people seem to respond to.

I don’t think it needs to be an either/or – it should be a continuum, a balance of style AND substance, capturing hearts and minds and spurring people to action. As you respond to the speakers, so might you respond to leaders.

So remember this lesson as you return home with dreams of changing your environment. Think about your leadership team and how they interact with your employees. Think about how YOU interact with employees. Are you simply “entertaining” them? Or are you helping them learn, grow and change?

Thank you, #SHRM18! You made us think. You helped us connect. You challenged us to change.

See you next year!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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#SHRM18: Back to roots

This week, I am attending the SHRM National Conference in Chicago, where I am both speaking AND covering the event as part of the SHRM Blogging Group. Follow us on Twitter with #SHRM18 and #SHRM18Bloggers.

On the walkway between my hotel and the convention center (I refuse to call it a “pedway”) there are a series of posters highlighting different neighborhoods in Chicago – Lincoln Park, Hyde Park, the Loop, etc. It’s a nice nod to the location and the posters are colorful and eye-catching.
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The first poster I really noticed was one highlighting the Ukrainian Village (it’s the picture on this blog post). See, my mom grew up in Chicago, specifically in the Ukrainian Village. My great-grandfather came to America from a small village in western Ukraine and settled his family in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago. My mom and her sister (my aunt) grew up bilingual – speaking Ukrainian and keeping the traditions alive. When I was very young, we even vacationed at Soyuzivka, where my brother and I were exposed to the culture of my great-grandfather’s homeland.

I took a quick picture of the poster and texted it to my mom, not really thinking anything of it other than I thought it was cool they highlighted the area where she grew up. She immediately responded with, “That’s a picture of St. Nicholas Cathedral, my old parish where I was baptized, made my first communion, and where my mom and dad were married.” She was so excited.

There’s a lesson in this (other than the fact that my mom clearly grew up Catholic). Where we come from shapes who we are – for good or for ill. It stays with us throughout our whole lives. We pass it down to those around us.

Why do I bring this up in the context of a conference? Because it’s easy for long-time HR professionals to become jaded about their profession. We get caught up in the day-to-day of our current roles and get very tunnel-visioned. We come to events like #SHRM18 to renew our certifications and just “get through it.” We see newly-minted HR pros and act put upon when they exhibit their enthusiasm for the conference and the profession.

Think about where you “grew up” in HR. Was it a positive experience or a negative experience? Does it still impact the way you approach the practice of HR? Were you taught to be a rule kitten, or encouraged to be flexible? All of these things impact our careers.

Veteran HR Pros – we are creating the memories that these new HR pros will take with them throughout their careers. WE ARE THEIR ROOTS. Whether it’s here at SHRM or back in our workplaces, we guide and shape HR of the future by helping them grow strong roots now.

So as you encounter eager young minds in HR at this conference or in your career, remember the importance of our roots. Help build an experience that will shape the future with hope and purpose, not anger and resentment.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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#SHRM18: It begins

This week, I will be attending the SHRM National Conference in Chicago, where I am both speaking AND covering the event as part of the SHRM Blogging Group. Follow us on Twitter with #SHRM18 and #SHRM18Bloggers.

Good morning from DAY ONE of the SHRM National Conference. Really, it’s kind of day 1.25 because there were some pre-conference workshops yesterday, and the SHRM Store was open, and people were wandering about aimlessly, trying to find their way around the vastness of McCormick Place.

Some people are flying in this morning, opting to get in right before the first General Session at 2:30pm. Some people have been over at McCormick since early this morning, attending pre-conference workshops. Some people opted to sleep in…and that’s okay, too.

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There’s lots going on through Wednesday this week and it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of sessions, SHRM Store, Expo Floor, and everything else available in the great city of Chicago. My advice to you today is to take the time to get your bearings – figure out where things are, what kind of shoes you should wear (and bring to change into), and whether or not you need a sweater in some of the session rooms.

Even more importantly, take time to reconnect with people you haven’t seen since the last conference, or you’ve only met online. There’s time enough for learning during the sessions, and you’ll regret not seeing someone when you have the chance.

As a member of the Blog Squad (#SHRM18Bloggers), I’ll be tweeting A LOT (@mfaulkner43) and posting about what I see and hear throughout the conference. There’s a big group of us this year, but we all take time to say hi and reconnect when we’re gathered together. (That cool pic I posted is actually a gift from two of our international bloggers – Anish and Kavi. Thanks, guys!!!!!) We each bring our unique perspectives, so be sure to read all the posts shared on the SHRM Blog Page.

And finally, Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there who are dads – whether it be by blood or by action. I’m happy that some of my friends who ARE dads are able to spend some time with their kiddos this morning, and I’m even HAPPIER that next year, SHRM will avoid Father’s Day all together.

So have a great first day, #SHRM18!

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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Some thoughts before #SHRM18

The big one – SHRM National – is coming up next week in Chicago. Over 15,000 HR professionals from across the world will be there to learn, talk, listen, and eat (hey, it’s Chicago).

There have been a number of fabulous blog posts written about the upcoming conference – you can find them here.  The posts highlight speakers, vendors, tips on navigating the conference, and great sights to see in Chicago.

Since those posts already exist and are really good, I thought I’d share some random thoughts as I prepare to attend – both as a speaker and a member of the SHRM Blogger Team.bros_0

  • The keynotes this year are all over the map in terms of political and social outlook. Mark Fogel wrote this terrific piece over on Fistful of Talent about the spectrum of speakers. My challenge to attendees is to listen critically and not be afraid to ask tough questions of leaders – if not at SHRM, then back in our workplaces.
  • There are people I only see once a year at national SHRM, yet I keep in touch with them all year long. With all the dangers and demons social media brings with it, I will always appreciate its ability to help me maintain long-distance connections.
  • Speaking of social media – GET ON TWITTER. It’s an imperfect tool, but it’s great for conferences. And start tweeting. Participate. We all start somewhere!
  • Attendees range from bright-eyed first-timers to jaded veterans. It’s important that we who have attended a lot of conferences remember that not everyone has “heard it before.” First-timers – ask questions. Engage with those around you. Veterans – be patient and remember you were once bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, too.
  • Speakers work hard to get share their content with you. It’s more than just having the idea and sharing the content. It’s about bringing things we think will be meaningful to the audience. It’s about making it interesting AND informative. So when it comes time to share feedback – share MEANINGFUL feedback. A speaker may get 1000 positive comments, but it’s the one dismissive or mean one that sticks with them. Maybe you could have looked up the reports online, but the speaker actually DID do the research, put together a slide deck, practiced it, and put themselves out there for the sake of our profession.
  • I’m going to seek out topics and speakers I don’t necessarily know. I think it’s good to expand horizons and learn about new areas of HR. I’m also going to be okay with skipping a session or two to recharge. This is your experience – own it.
  • I did this in Chicago last time I was there.
  • Portillo’s. That is all.

So there you have it – a stream-of-consciousness sharing of thoughts about #SHRM18. Follow the hashtag on Twitter. Tweet some content yourself! There’s a #NotatSHRM18 group out there, too. And the SHRM Blogger Team will be posting content throughout the conference! (I’ve been known to live tweet like crazy.) Plenty of opportunities to be a part of the event. You’re only as disconnected as you choose to be.

I’ll see you in Chicago!

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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