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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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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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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.

fowl-storm

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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Shout out to the staff: Dispatch from #WorkHuman

A reminder that I am attending the WorkHuman conference put on by Globoforce this week in Austin.


The first day of any conference is typically about getting your bearings. You wander through the conference space, figuring out where all the rooms are, how to find the expo hall, and – most importantly – where the afternoon snacks and coffee will be, and WILL THERE BE DIET COKE????

There are typically some pre-conference sessions, too. And while some may be tempted to skip them, the ones held yesterday were PACKED. Cy Wakeman kicked it off with her guidance on eliminating drama from the workplace; Steve Pemberton (Globoforce CHRO) followed with his remarkable personal story of resilience and triumph; and David Rock brought home Pre-Day (can we call it Day One? I don’t know!) with information on feedback and why we’re struggling so much with it. (Full disclosure: while I love David Rock’s work and like him as a speaker, I went back to my room to take a nap. I got up WAAAAAAY too early for a flight. Sorry, David! Heard it was great!)

Prior to all of this, though, was registration. You know, pick up your badge, get your conference schedule, conquer the world. Normally this is a pretty sedate process – people come in little packs, but seldom descend as one. Except for yesterday. When we descended like a pack of locusts upon an unsuspecting group of WorkHuman helpers. It seemed every attendee decided to pick up their badge RIGHT BEFORE Cy’s talk. As you can imagine, it overwhelmed the staff. People got a little fussy. People were worried about missing the speakers. People don’t like not getting stuff IMMEDIATELY. (People are weird.)

I bring this up not to admonish the staff but to congratulate them for their perseverance. Two workers (one from Ireland, one from Denmark) went up and down the line, talking with folks and offering to get water or hold their place if they needed to step out for a moment. They made the choice to allow people into the sessions without their badge so no one would miss content. They extended the check-in hours to alleviate pressure. They stayed positive. They stayed focused. They stayed friendly.

At a conference focusing on the human side of work, this was refreshing. Attendees weren’t super jerky. The staff stayed strong. There was a collective realization that the world won’t end if you don’t get your badge. The time spent in line was time spent connecting. People were able to reframe and no one got yelled at.

How about that? We can be nice – even when inconvenienced.

So shout out to the people who are helping make this conference happen. It’s hard to coordinate this many moving parts. And shout out to the attendees who remembered why they’re here – to connect and to slow down a bit and to remember we are all just people trying to make it work in this crazy world.

I’m looking forward to today’s sessions. And I look forward to high-fiving some hard-working staff who keep a smile on their face and do what they can to make this conference memorable. Let’s all try to make sure THEY have a good conference, too!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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When tech and HR combine: What I saw at #UltiConnect

I had the opportunity to speak at and attend the Ultimate Connections conference put on last week by Ultimate Software. This is the Little User Conference That Could – growing to a mighty 3,000+ attendance by those interested in learning more about how an HCM software solution can help them with their business, specifically the HR function.

As a speaker and Influencer at the conference, I got to talk to all sorts of people – product development, customers, potential customers, smart HR people, etc. Others have written some great posts already about what they saw coming out of the conference (like this one, or these). What I focused on more was how technology was impacting those who were just now starting to implement an enterprise solution. And what I learned was eye-opening.

Many of the customers I talked to were relatively new to having an HCM to help them with what they do on a regular basis. They were managing everything through disparate systems, or through no systems at all. There was a lot of talk about Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, and paper…so much paper. Now, you might think that what made everyone excited was the UltiPro Perception module that uses natural language processing to help you know what your employees are really thinking. Or Xander, the AI platform Ultimate Software has been developing to help managers make more informed people decisions. Or the ad-hoc reporting capabilities that allow HR departments to create their own reports and finally do analytics to run their business more effectively. And don’t get me wrong – these things are indeed exciting and cool, and people DID talk about them. But what I heard mentioned over and over again wasn’t really any of these things.

It was Payroll and Time and Attendance. 

Having a system that relieves the administrative burden for something so simple and so basic was a game-changer for these organizations. It meant employees could get paid accurately and on time. It meant timecards were correct and (fingers crossed) completed when they should be. It meant employees could finally go to one place – their dashboard – and know how many PTO days they have left for the year.

This is a big damn deal, people.

It made me realize that no matter how many bells and whistles technology may have, if people can’t and don’t use it, it doesn’t matter. And if the technology can’t do the basic things like payroll and timecards, HR doesn’t want it. So yes, advanced functionality is all well and good, but if it’s not grounded by a solid, simple solution to HR’s problems, it’s useless to them

In HR, we often talk so much about moving away from administration and to a more strategic role…and we need to. But the daily work in the organization needs to get done, too – things like paychecks and vacation and leave management and all the little things that employees take for granted because good HR people word darn hard to make sure they happen, no matter how manual the process may be. But the more manual the process, the less time available to be strategic. Now, these nice people I met will have TIME to cool work, and the TOOLS to start measuring the impact of that work. And they were so excited to start.

So next time you hear someone grumbling that HR is being to administrative, dig a little deeper – do they have what they need to get the blocking and tackling done efficiently? If not, then cut them some slack. And help them find a better way.


Author’s note: This user conference had some pretty amazing keynotes, and I’m sure I’ll revisit many of the themes I saw – from the humble CEO to the moving John O’Leary. And I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have been asked to be a part of the Women in Leadership Panel. Originally conceived by Janine Truitt to be a discussion around women in the workplace, diversity and inclusion, and how HR can move businesses forward, it became an honest, open, and sometimes raw conversation with the women who came to be a part of the session. Thank you so much to all of those who shared, and thank you to Janine, Jason, Maren, Kate, and Micole who let me be a part of it. A recording of the live stream of the session can be viewed here

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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Customer service shouldn’t stop at middle management

I’m in Vegas this week for the Ultimate Connections 2018 conference and it’s at a VERY big hotel conference center (the Wynn/Encore, if you must know). I like to wander around a little bit the night before to try and get the lay of the land, which is a good idea when things are spread out like they are here. I stopped in front of a map to orient myself when one of the hotel maintenance workers noticed me and asked if I needed help figuring out where I was. He then helped me find some shortcuts to get around the property and made sure I was good before he continued on his way. I’m so mad I didn’t catch his name – he was so helpful. And he did it without anyone watching to make sure he did.

This, to me, was customer service at its finest. A person recognized a guest needed assistance and he gave it. It could be this person is just naturally helpful and friendly. It could also be that the Encore has a really good hiring and onboarding program. I think any service industry town like Vegas would try to focus on good customer service. My Lyft driver from the airport – Rodrigo (5 stars) – also works in one of the Strip hotels and he must have mentioned 3-4 times that it’s important you treat guests and people in general the right way. He got it. 

These two interactions got me thinking about how companies are always emphasizing the need for customer service – both internal and external customers. It seems to me that most front line employees totally get it – the interact with customers face-to-face (or phone-to-phone, even chat-to-chat), so there’s immediate feedback about their level of customer service. Then I think about the frontline supervisors – they’re typically on the ground with their people, so their customer service focus is usually pretty good, too.

 

But what about middle and upper leadership? How is THEIR customer service, typically? If you’re like me, your experience has been mixed – some are good, but so many seem to throw customer service (particularly with INTERNAL customers) completely out the window when they “need” something. How many of us have been working on a project for weeks, only to have the parameters change drastically at the last second because some executive had a thought? How many of us have witnessed inappropriate behavior at the middle to upper management level – whether it be unprofessionalism or outright bullying and harassment – only to hear it excused as “leadership ambition”?

None of this is okay.

If your organization says customer service is important, than it’s important at EVERY level with EVERY kind of customer. Don’t put all the pressure on your frontline employees – they’ve already got it. And if they don’t, they’re fired.

Maybe it’s time we hold our leadership – and ourselves – to the same standard.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2018 in culture, General Rant about Leading

 

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