As smart, strategic, and successful as you may be, often times getting things done is all about relationships: who you know, who you work with, who you can trust, and who you can rely on. Building successful relationships at work is critical to your success. The bottom line is that if people like you and respect you they will be more likely to want to work with you. If they want to work with you, you will be more likely to get things done. In a nutshell, it comes down to being likeable.
Being “likeable” has seemingly taken on bad connotations in the workplace… that you can’t be powerful or a leader if you are too nice… But being likeable in the workplace has nothing to with being too nice and everything to do with being respected, smart, fair, and a functioning contributor to the organization. And being nice too can’t hurt.
Being likeable doesn’t have to mean that you are always in a good mood, that you don’t have high expectations, that you agree with colleagues 100% of the time. Perhaps we should re-define likeable in the workplace to be respected, smart, fair, and a functioning contributor to the organization. Likewise, being successful or powerful doesn’t have to mean that you are cold, distant, and aggressive.
And being likeable means that if disagreement does occur, it is less likely to derail progress and goals.
So, the questions become:
How can you balance being likeable with pushing forward on your priorities?
How can you say no or disagree but still be maintain critical relationships in the workplace?
How can you create relationships that further your team and organizational goals?
1. Build your brand
Be aware of, and continue to build your personal brand in the workplace. What are you known for? How would colleagues describe you? Are you known for building bridges? Being innovative? Diligent? High level strategist or detail focused? Once you start to understand your current brand (go ahead, ask your colleagues!), you can begin to either tweak, change, or build your brand. Check out this ACS webinar on the subject. Having a great personal brand in the workplace can create a solid foundation for building relationships.
2. Check in and reach out
Even if you don’t have a project that interfaces directly with specific colleagues at that moment, chances are you will in the future so keep those relationships alive and well in the mean time. If you see an article that may be of interest to them, pass it along… If they are in the midst of hiring on their team, keep your network in mind… Celebrate their successes even if they have nothing to do with your team… Send them a quick note to say hello.
3. Use humor as a bridge builder
Diffuse tense situations when appropriate with a bit of humor. Not a stand up comedian? That’s okay… At least be willing to laugh along with those who are!
4. Have perspective taking skills
We often get so wrapped up in our own projects, priorities, and deadlines that we forget to actually hear and digest what people are saying – both overtly and subtly. Are they in the midst of a high pressure project? Understaffed? Dealing with personal issues? Who are their key stakeholders and how do they differ from yours? Understanding the various perspectives at the table helps make things feel less personal if there is disagreement. Understand how your role fits in with the overall organization (and in relationship to other teams).
6. Honesty is the best policy
Instead of beating around the bush with colleagues, give them your perspective up front. If you own your perspective up front and overtly acknowledge the fact that theirs may be slightly different, you move the conversation into compromise and discussion as opposed to defense.
7. Get to know colleagues outside of work
While everyone is busy and has multiple commitments outside of the office, taking advantage of office social gatherings – whether that is eating lunch together or or going to the occasional happy hour, is important to your relationship building.
8. Don’t burn bridges
As infuriating as colleagues can be, in a world that is all about who you know it’s never a good idea to burn bridges. Networks among people in an industry and/or employer can be strong – don’t underestimate them.
At the end of the day, you may not always make decisions in the workplace that make everyone happy. Colleagues may disagree with you, they may even adamantly disagree with you. But if your colleagues respect and trust you, it will make it that much easier to swallow.