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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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#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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Do you suffer from MBSO?

MBSO: Management By Shiny Object

Symptoms:

  • Tendency to assign action items based on the last meeting you had
  • Forwarding every article on the latest management fad to your entire team
  • Inability to complete a project
  • Forgetting who you actually assigned as owner of a project
  • Vigorous head-nodding when something is suggested by the higher ups

Side Effects:

  • Frustrated team members
  • Lack of planning
  • Eye rolling in meetings
  • High turnover
  • Low engagement

Diagnosis:

  • Can usually be made within two (2) face-to-face meetings
  • Observe email syntax – probable lack of continuity; may also display needless repetition
  • Ask for a priority update on Monday…then as the same question Wednesday to see if there are massive changes

Treatment (to be administered by those around the MBSO sufferer):

  • At the next staff meeting, stage an intervention. “Joe, we love you very much. And we want you to be successful…”
  • Airing of grievances
  • Dead-eye stare at the afflicted member of your team
  • Finding a new job

MBSO can be stopped, but it takes awareness.

Don’t be that manager.

 

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#SHRM18 Speaker Bobby Zaepfel: Dragging records into the 21st century

When you think about record-keeping in HR, what does it typically bring to mind?

If you’re like a lot of long-time practitioners, it probably means a dark, dusty room filled with file cabinets or shelving, file folders filled to bursting with documents that track the course of an employee’s employment and benefits. It may be orderly, it may be messy, but it’s probably on paper.

Bobby Zaepfel wants you to start thinking different about record keeping.

I had an opportunity to talk to Bobby as he prepares for his 2018 SHRM National Conference session Once Upon a Time There Was a Mountain of Paper, on Tuesday, June 19 at 7:00 AM. Don’t let the early time scare you off – it promises to be a great session! Bobby is the University Records Officer in charge of the records program all of James Madison University.  With a focus on process improvement, strategic goals, and vision, Bobby works closely with HR staff and campus leadership to facilitate and collaborate all areas of the records program at the university.

And Bobby is an electronics record-keeping evangelist.

As a member of the #SHRM18 Blog Squad, I get to interview speakers and help spread the word about their session, and I personally selected Bobby’s session on record-keeping because it seemed like a topic that, on the surface, doesn’t sound sexy, but is hitting HR departments hard as organizations look to modernize and cut down on their facilities footprints.bobby-zaepfel

Bobby explains, “This is a hot button topic – it tends to be deprioritized until it CAN’T be deprioritized anymore.  A lot of organizations find themselves in a ‘gotta move NOW’ situation and don’t make plans for the future.” The trick, Bobby continues, is to be strategic about how you will move forward with electronic record-keeping. Buying a system isn’t enough. Like all HR tech, you need to have a plan first.

When I asked Bobby what advice he would give to an HR department about to embark on the path to electronics record-keeping, he said, “Approach it with a heavy emphasis on workflows. A lot of the (record-keeping) systems out there are very specific about what they can and can’t do. Draw a concept map out before you dive into the pond – what are the workflows? Who needs access? Etc.”

When mapping out the requirements for a record-keeping system, it’s this last point that some HR departments forget. Bobby gave me an overview of a records-conversion project James Madison University is about to embark on (moving from an “online file cabinet” to an record-keeping system), and when they started reviewing who needed access, it was clear that the needs went far beyond HR’s records. Student records, transcripts, applications, accounting – all needed to be accessed across the university. This requirement – and the careful planning that preceded it – led them to a solution that was tailor made for higher education.

I enjoyed my conversation with Bobby Zaepfel. He’s funny, engaging, and tells a great story. His first career was in broadcasting, and you can hear the roots of that past in the way he approaches his content. His first experience with the SHRM National Conference was last year in New Orleans – guess whose session was during the tornado warning? Thankfully, it all worked out!

When I shared I live in Colorado, Bobby was quick to proclaim his love for Red Rocks Amphitheater (as well he should) and shared that he was a bit of a Dead Head before settling down. He’s the proud father of three boys – twin 6-yr-olds and a 4-yr-old.

As our conversation wrapped up, I asked Bobby if there was anything else he wanted me to share with the readers. “SHRM is a wealth of resources – if you go on their site, you can find information on pretty much any topic,” he said. “This is so incredibly helpful for smaller HR departments, folks new to the industry, and true generalists who have to handle everything on their own.”

Well said, Bobby.

 

Join Bobby Zaepfel for his session at 2018 SHRM National Conference: Once Upon a Time There Was a Mountain of Paper, Tuesday, June 19, 7:00 AM

 

 
 

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Network or nepotism: where do we draw the line?

“Work your network.”

“Employee referrals are the best way to find talent.”

“Oh, I have a great person I can recommend for that.”

“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

Depending on your point of view, you either think these statements are helpful and motivating, or the embodiment of everything that’s wrong in society today.

This eternal debate is at the heart of my frustration with “hire for fit” or requests from conference planners for recommendations of speakers. On the one hand, it is important to find people who don’t necessarily “match” but certainly “go” – they complement the business in ways that moves the organization forward rather than fights for fighting’s sake. On the other hand, you can end up with a whole lot of same.  – the same thinking, the same looking, the same people, the same faces.

I struggle with this because I’ve benefited from my network. I’ve been afforded opportunities I wouldn’t have because the people in my circle of trust have recommended me for things, or have hired me for gigs, or have introduced me to people who then helped me do cool things. I am grateful to my network and humbled they think to recommend me for anything. And I really love the opportunity to refer someone I know because they are smart, talented, capable, all that stuff.

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And yet…

I recognize that someone else who had some mad skillz may not have gotten the opportunity because they don’t know the right people. And that it’s really hard to break into a new industry or group or company when you’re new and sometimes the “old guard” circles the wagons a little too much.

In hiring, data suggests employee referrals are the “best” – they tend to be sticky and because an employee is putting his/her reputation on the line, the referrals aren’t usually awful. For those of you who work among those with particularly niche skill sets (IT, OD, Legal,, etc.), you recognize the fact there are typically six (or fewer) degrees of separation between you and any possible candidate because we all keep referring the same people over and over.

What do we do about it? Throw out referrals all together? Avoid going to our network to ask about who should be a part of an event? Refuse to hire someone we’ve worked with before?

Yeah, maybe.

Or maybe not.

Maybe we just need be a little more aware of who we reach out to. Maybe we need to be intentional about the balance of referrals to new voices when it comes to giving opportunities. Maybe we need to take a chance now and then because it’s exciting to meet/hear/see/hire someone new.

Think of it this way – Marvel movies are great. The MCU has done a fantastic job of weaving together multiple storylines and breathing new life into old characters (you know Ironman was a secondary title, right?). But deep down, every once in awhile you kind of want to see something original. There’s a reason Greatest Showman had legs in the box office (and only part of it can be attributed to Hugh Jackman). It doesn’t take anything away from Marvel and movies you love. But it does give you glimpse of something different that you might not have wanted to watch.

So here’s my challenge for you – for every person who is your “go-to” referral for something, try to also refer someone new. It will grow the network at large and offer opportunity to those who may not have the reach that others do.

Plus, when that person turns into a star, you can always say you discovered them.

 

The currency of real network in not greed, but generosity.

~ Keith Ferrazzi

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Authenticity, Uncategorized

 

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