The Idea: Many of today’s most compelling companies don’t just sell products, they create emotionally connected relationships with their customers. These exceptional brands do two things very well: they design radically empathetic products or foster truly transparent relationships with their customers. They are also adept at uncovering and solving problems customers may not even be aware of yet. Everyone wants to be respected and admired, yet there is deep value in likeability.

Companies that are invested in customer intimacy are often described as “likeable” organizations. The difficulty arises when we seek to fabricate likeability, rather than invest in deeply healthy leaders and habits. As management consultant Steve Tobak pointed out in a recent Entrepreneur article, “the problem with likability as a goal or metric is that it’s highly subjective: one person’s jerk is another person’s loving spouse, best friend or great boss. It’s also highly situational: everyone is a jerk some of the time, depending on the situation and how they’re treated by others.” Likeability may be innately personal, but everyone knows it when they see it. It’s the outflow of high Emotional Intelligence that includes self-awareness, empathy, humility, and reliability. 

Individuals may not always win by being respected, but they will almost certainly lose if they are not likeable. Black Swan, a negotiation-training agency, says people are six times more likely to do business with someone they like. Likeability is a compelling characteristic that creates team cohesion and guides talent and new customers. How often have you seen leaders removed from their senior assignment because others can’t stand to be in their presence? Whether it’s a self-awareness problem or a lack of humility, the distrust of bad leaders permeates too many organizations. One may have short-term success being unlikeable but rarely long term.   

A house built on sand… 

The Traits 

Want to be an even more likeable company? Try fixing things. Lee Resources conducted a study and discovered that organizations that resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor create an emotional bond; the consumer is 70 percent more likely to do business again with that firm. In a world that rarely delivers on a promise, dependability is irresistible. 

Do you want to be a respected and likeable leader? Honestly pursue (and listen to) personal feedback. Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman found that “leaders who ask for feedback are better liked and more effective than those who don’t.” Similarly, the research uncovered that only one in 2,000 “unlikeable leaders” are thought to be effective leaders. The traits that greatly increased one’s likability include: 

  1. Having positive emotional connections with others, high integrity, high trust, and cooperation. 
  2. Being inspirational and a strong communicator, sharing vision, inspiring confidence.      
  3. Asking for feedback and being willing to personally look in the mirror and change. 

Instead of focusing only on likeability, focus on listening, serving, and empathizing.   

Does your team express these traits? Or are you imbuing distrust, bad listening, and selfishness into your products?