As flour is to cake, as eggs are to omelets, as loud guitars are to rock and roll . . . likeability is an indispensable ingredient of success. It is an essential quality that can never be made irrelevant by changing trends, industry shake-ups or markets awash in low-priced products from afar. Even good times where economic strength abounds does little to relax the need for firms (and people) to possess the likeability gene. Flush with cash, we still hold our nose around unlikeable stinkers. Simply put, likeability is worth every effort put toward it because it is central to your personal and professional success.
With the possible exception of firms offering experienced moon rock polishing services (you see, there are very, very few experienced moon rock polishers in the marketplace, forcing us to deal with them even if they are uniformly unlikeable), companies and people who lack appealing and agreeable qualities have a really hard time developing loyal customers. That’s right, entire companies can be unlikeable if the work culture is poisonous enough. As buyers we actively seek out and remember organizations with organizational likeability.
While you’ll rarely find it outlined in the black and white of a strategic business plan, likeability ranks higher in relative importance and contribution than many other qualities including technical skills, productivity, intelligence and even honesty. People who genuinely possess and express the quality of likeability zoom past the nonpossessors.
A short list of the benefits that likeability brings:
• You will be more successful in business and in life.
• You will be hired, promoted and rewarded (even elected) more often than those less likeable.
• You will close more sales (in business and in life’s amorous pursuits), make more money and have better stories to tell.
• You will consistently receive more attention from life’s service providers (from landscapers to plumbers, from doctors to lawyers to bankers).
In fact, in a 1984 University of California study, there were significant differences identified in medical treatment plans depending on the characteristics of the patient. Likeable patients were encouraged significantly more to both telephone and return more frequently to the doctor than those viewed as less likeable. Shockingly, the doctor’s staff were found to actually educate the likeable patients significantly more often and in greater detail than they would the unlikeable patients. It may seem melodramatic, but the studies confirm that likeability is not only central to your success, it can be central to your actual survival!
There’s even more evidence to consider. A study by Columbia University showed that popular workers (i.e., those more likeable) were seen as more trustworthy, motivated, serious and decisive — this view led to more recommendations for generous pay increases. Can you guess how lesser liked work colleagues and bosses were perceived? Thought of as arrogant, conniving and manipulative, raises and promotions were ruled out regardless of the academic background or professional experience of those found unlikeable. It is a back-breaking anchor.
But isn’t it too late to write about something as seemingly ingrained in your personality as likeability? The answer is “no.” Many elements of likeability, which include some of the most basic rules of courtesy and social interplay, can be learned (and relearned) at any stage of life. In fact, with the constantly evolving nature of human relationships and modern business protocol, maintaining expertise is critical to your standing. Additionally, this article is intended to enjoy some extended life as one of those “if the shoe fits” columns where the value is multiplied when its copied and judiciously (anonymously?) left for certain others to discover and take to heart – presumably saving you from a dangerous conversation. A post-it note reading “if the shoe fits” may earn you residency in the Chicken-Hearted Hall of Fame but you will retain your ability to be fruitful and multiply.
DOES LIKABILITY MATTER IN TODAY'S BOTTOM-LINE WORLD?
If you think that the world has become so bottom line oriented and calculating that we no longer have the luxury of being picky about the people with whom we work, I would urge you to reconsider. We still remain stubbornly human. While there is ever-present pressure to produce results at any cost, and too often by any means, we are still decidedly social creatures and we take those human/animal associations very seriously. In a world that feels less under our control, we are hanging tight to certain birthrights; namely deciding whom we like and whom we don’t like. As old school criteria like skin color and religious affiliation, once primary gatekeeper characteristics to the social networks we form, shrink in relevance, we now work harder to attain kinship by surrounding ourselves with similar-minded (not just similar looking) people when forming new “social tribes.”