Have you seen the young dynamo on Jeopardy? His name is Arthur Chu, and he’s a brilliant young man who has won over $200K in 9 days. Can you imagine? What an amazing feat. And yet…. There is something about his style that makes watching him achieve greatness a less enjoyable experience, and it can be a lesson for us all. For sustainability in the workplace, success is not enough – likeability matters.
Before I go further, let me say that I don’t have anything against Arthur or his strategy of hopping around the board to find the daily doubles – a win is a win is a win. I just notice his etiquette, or lack thereof.
He is abrupt and disrespectful. He shrugs his shoulder and bets 5 bucks if he thinks he doesn’t know the answer. He cuts Alex Trebek off as Alex tries to engage in small talk. He exhibits no emotion – that in itself wouldn’t be bad if a smile were thrown in when he wasn’t competing. His behavior has swiftly undermined my desire to watch the game. Call me when he’s gone (which may be never at the rate he’s going).
So what if he’s cold and abrupt? Well, I agree. So what? I believe he will continue to run the competition right out the door, and with good reason. It’s his brains, strategy, focus – all paying off for him.
Here is why I bring it up. You and I are not on Jeopardy running the board as if it were a game of tiddlywinks, as Arthur is. We are in a job where we have colleagues and customers and managers and… annual reviews!
Success in the workplace, for most of us, goes beyond what grades we get in school or what we know in terms of subject matter expertise. In the end, how we are perceived by others as we go about our business has much to do with how effective we are, and how we are valued as a teammate. Being likeable goes a very, very long way. We are infinitely more likely to be forgiven for not knowing something than we are for being a cold, hard machine, that couldn’t offer a warm handshake if our life depended upon it.
We don’t have to be relationship-building rock stars. You can be shy, and be likeable. You can be an introvert and be likeable. You can be a “get ‘er done!” person and be likeable. With effort and awareness, we can all be a little bit better at it (I write this to remind myself as much as anyone else!)
Think about those around you whom you are drawn to for their likeability. They may be a good listener – one mouth, two ears. They may catch others being great, and be generous with compliments. They may offer respect. They may demonstrate awesome self-leadership in the face of adversity. They may smile, and say, “Good morning.” This is basic business etiquette. We should teach it in high-school as young adults begin to look for jobs and prep for college interviews.
One sure way to increase your likeability is to know your strengths and use them with passion. Another is to exhibit genuine interest in others, without expecting it back. It helps to be just a little bit vulnerable – it draws people in, and is a sign that you’re human (hint: we all are.)
Bottom line: What people are going to remember most about you is how you made them feel when they were with you. That is your legacy in the moment. Your reputation, your lasting legacy, is the culmination of all those little moments every single person on earth experiences with you. If being in your presence is a consistently unpleasant occurrence, people will root against you. IT MATTERS.
I googled “being likeable” and came up with a bunch of good stuff. The article I believed was most helpful and enjoyable to read is by Jeff Haden from Inc. Click here if you’d like to explore this topic in more detail
The next time you’re faced with the urge to cut your colleague off in mid-sentence, or to make sure others understand who the “important” person in the room is, or feel compelled to nit-pick at some detail in a friend’s presentation, remember Arthur Chu. Winner? Yes. Memorable? Yes. Do you want him on your team solving difficult problems in front of a valued, unhappy customer, with no idea as to how his advice might be packaged when it comes out of his mouth?
What say you?