Most of us prefer to think that business is all about dollars and cents, profits and loss, but it isn’t. Business is about relationships, and more specifically about nurturing those relationships so that there’s something “in it” for all parties. Profit and loss are just byproducts of that relationship  . . . and likeability is a key factor.

Business Relationships

Now, before everyone jumps on me with examples of this hated person and that villainous business type who has done well for him or herself (hello, Leona  Helmsley, anyone?), I will concede that some business success stories transcend likeability by the sheer quality of the innovation or the idea. For example, Steve Jobs was purportedly very demanding and tough to work for, but does that make him unlikeable? He might not have been popular with some employees, but he was adored by customers and technology fans the world over. To some extent, then, likeability is relative.

But for your typical businessman or woman, let’s give my premise a “scratch and sniff test.” Who would you rather work for, a boss you liked or one you didn’t? As an employee, or even as a friend, who are you more likely to go above and beyond for? Similarly, as an employer, who do you want on your team—someone who’s likeable, or some sourpuss? Who do you think will be a better team player, more productive, and more likely to play “nice” with customers?

As an individual, likeability can be critical to your career and to your relationships with colleagues. I’m not talking about becoming a pushover and a “yes” man or woman. That’s not being likeable. In business, people tend to “like” people who are genuine and authentic in their dealings, who are sincere. They like people who listen to them and show an interest in their work and what they are thinking. They like people in whom they can confide and share sensitive information, knowing that it won’t be shared or become fodder for the rumor mill. In short, they want to be able to trust you and be comfortable around you. They will like you because they can depend on you.

As a business owner, likeability can go a long way to helping you maximize productivity and attract and retain top talent. Who do you think employees will work hardest for—a tyrant, or someone who’s fair and respects them? A tyrant might get away with belligerence for a while, but in the long run it’s a recipe for disaster. Mark my words, any good employees who work for tyrants will book it the moment something better comes along. Similarly, if you have a reputation as a quality, compassionate employer, you are more likely to attract top-notch employees seeking to be treated fairly and with respect.
As a customer, what is more likely to build brand loyalty—likeable employees or a bunch of grumps? Consider your local DMV. If it’s like most, you’ve most likely had a bad experience with employees who don’t seem to want to be there and don’t seem inclined to help you (or anyone else). It all tends to be pretty unpleasant. While they might be the nicest people outside the workplace (we can dream, now, can’t we?) my experience has been that DMV workers usually don’t come across as very likeable. Perhaps it’s not in their job descriptions; perhaps their bosses aren’t likeable either and the sentiment trickles down. Whatever the reason, as a customer, chances are if you could get your DMV services somewhere else—where the staff is more likeable and the experience more pleasant—you probably would. Now apply this thinking to private business where customers DO have a choice and you get the picture. It pays to be nice!

What is your personal or business likeability factor?

  • Do you smile often? In-person, on the phone, or even when composing an email, smiles carry positive energy. Use them well . . . and often.
  • Do you recognize the efforts of others? Big or small, everyone contributes in some way. Acknowledge it and reward it. Be sincere.
  • Do you pay it forward? Be generous with your time and resources. A good community reputation does wonders for your likeability.
  • Do you look people in the eye? It’s the most direct way to engage and show interest.
  • Do you participate in work and social events? It’s a great way to connect and stay connected with others, and to boost your likeability. Network. Play on the company softball team. Flip burgers at the employee picnic. You get the idea.

Share your thoughts on how likeability affects your relationships, personally and professionally.