Business leaders and entrepreneurs with superb people skills have a competitive edge over others. These skills often take more time to learn than technical abilities, but the results are well worth the investment.
Everyone wants to work with people they enjoy being around. If you’re extremely likable, you’ll be able to attract new clients and retain long-standing relationships with minimal effort.
Clients evaluate who they want to hire and continue to work with based on what I call the BLT factor: believability, likability, and trustworthiness. They ask themselves, “Does Pamela know what she’s doing and is she enjoyable to work with?” If you’re disliked, it may not matter how competent you are, people simply won’t want to work with you.
Likability is the culmination of three traits: empathy, reliability and integrity. Here’s why each characteristic is important and what you can do to cultivate it.
Empathy. Empathy is your ability to relate to and understand someone else’s situation and perspective. Strong, enduring relationships are almost always built on empathy. It’s a life skill that requires self-awareness, practice and experience. The ups and downs of your personal and professional life will influence how you empathasize, and with whom.
Common experience connects people through an instant bond and a shared level of trust. For example, I can easily empathize with others who have lost a job, started a business, had cancer, struggled with finances, or written a book because I too, have experienced those circumstances.
Just be aware, empathy does not mean you have to agree with others’ opinions or try to please everybody. Instead, consider the feelings of your employees, partners and colleagues when you make decisions. To cultivate this skill, react less, listen more and try to put yourself in the other person’s position.
Next time a client or employee is struggling, take a few moments to listen and, if you can relate, share a personal story.
Reliability. Customers reasonably expect businesses to be reliable, responsible and dependable. When someone needs help, he calls whomever he knows he can count on. It’s more than delivering a service; it’s doing your job well while keeping the project on time and on budget.
Some of the most successful companies in the world have a reputation for consistency. If you catch a flight from New York to San Francisco and stop by a Starbucks on the way to the airport, you know that coffee will taste the same as the coffee you plan to buy once you land. It doesn’t matter where you are; every Starbucks delivers the same quality coffee, every time.
When I was in Shanghai last October, I craved something sweet. I spotted a Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor and went inside for dessert. Even though I was on the other side of the planet, this ice cream made me feel like I was back home.
Customers are attracted to the sense of security that comes from being able to count on someone or something. Certainty provides peace of mind and most people are willing to pay more for reliable service.
Cultivate your reputation for reliability. Whenever you or your employees make a promise, deliver. If you can’t fulfill part of your responsibilities, let the client know as soon as possible. An unavoidable hiccup is forgivable; blatant misjudgment or deception is not.
Integrity. Lack of integrity has permeated our culture. It can be seen in politics, sports, business and entertainment. Integrity is the highest level of professionalism and behavior. It’s doing what you know is right, even if no one is looking; it’s standing up for what you believe in and having the courage to speak up, even if your opinion is unpopular.
Investor Warren Buffett said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Many people are smart and capable, but very few take the time to cultivate integrity. Those who do make a personal investment of time, energy and self-enhancement are paid back in big dividends.
Whether professional or personal, relationships demand integrity and honesty. On some days, it may be difficult to always behave at your highest level, but it’s well worth the effort. Consistently apply your best judgment with your staff, colleagues, friends and family.