Ask yourself a question. Would you like to hang out with you?
One of lesser known facts about “success” in the workplace is that likabilty is pretty damned important. Let’s be clear: it does not suffice for lack of applied effort and intelligence, but they will not be all you need either if you’re not likable. I know.
Early in my career I took what native intelligence I had and often used it as a cudgel beating people over the head (figuratively of course – we had a violence policy) until they could see the (ahem) wisdom of my ways. I did not win any popularity contests except from my teams whom I fought for tooth and nail. One of my teams gave me a baseball hat with the word “Bullshit” embroidered on the front, because – as you might have guessed – I frequently used that phrase when calling out corporate nonsense.
Later in life, a couple of things changed me and my perspective. My purpose here is to spare you the painful learning I went through.
First, when I went to work at Apple I found out quickly, like day one, I was no longer the smartest person in the room. More likely the dumbest I believe. Never before or since have I been surrounded with the collective MIPs I was there. When you first realize you’re not the smartest bear in the woods its humbling. But if you begin to accept that, its helpful. I could no longer be a one-trick pony relying simply on logic but had to learn to collaborate and build relationships.
The second life-changing event was when my ex-wife – a brilliant creative person – told me while riding in the car one day that she would just as soon turn around and go home if I wouldn’t stop being so negative. Wow. If that doesn’t punch you in the gut, you’re not human. Here the woman I loved was telling me, I don’t want to be with you right now. That is a powerful message.
Over time I learned that its okay to use your intelligence just as its okay to be critical of plans or processes. But the way in which we do that really matters. Really.
Today, as you may have noted in my Twitter feed or in earlier posts, I advocate removing the negative people from your life. Yes, I know they’re there to teach you a lesson, but once the lesson is over so is their expiration date.
Yet removing negativity vicariously through others is not sufficient: we must also remove it from ourselves. I work hard every day to think about whether or not my words and actions are helpful and positive or not. I am no saint. I make mistakes. But when it comes to treating others with respect if not kindness is a part of my DNA now. I believe in it.
Likability counts. People have choice about how much they can engage with you. Remove the negativity and hubris from your life and see if your likability – and just plain ability – don’t increase.
Would you want to hang out with you?