What are the most important personal attributes for business success? Ambition? Drive? Ruthlessness? Self-confidence? Lust for power? Intelligence? Expertise?

None of the above.

According to Tim Sanders’ book The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams, being likeable outranks all of these. Research shows likeable people have the best chances of being hired, promoted and rewarded. Customers are more likely to buy from those they feel good about — even if they aren’t offering the best deal. Bosses who are liked get better performance from their staff and fewer problems.

On the other hand, the kind of boss who provokes fear rather than warmth produces poorer results, higher employee turnover and more breakdowns. Tough, abrasive companies trap themselves in an atmosphere of constant anxiety, mostly because nobody will cut them any slack.

If those who live by the sword, die by it, those who live by being more abrasive than the next guy get the same treatment in return.

You can prove this for yourself. If you had a chance to put one over on an unpleasant, domineering colleague, boss or supplier, would you do it? In a heartbeat.

Likeability counts, believe me. Here’s how to increase your own.

  1. Practice being friendly and open with others. First impressions truly matter. If you’re seen as approachable and fun to be around, people will seek you out.
  2. Focus on the other person, not on yourself. Self-centered people aren’t attractive or likeable. If you genuinely concern yourself with others, you’ll be swiftly rewarded.
  3. Be yourself. We’re nearly all born with a highly-sensitive “phoney radar”. Unless you’re an Oscar-level actor, people will sense immediately if you’re simply playing a part. You can’t be likeable if people don’t trust you. If you don’t like yourself enough to stick with who you are, why should anyone else like you?
  4. Slow down and take time with people. Time and attention are gifts of immense value. Give them freely. Likeable people have endless time for others, regardless of how busy they are. Unpleasant people only have time for themselves.
  5. Talk less and listen more. Ever been in a room with a boorish, nasty type? Who talked most and listened least? True listeners find themselves in the center of almost any group because that’s where the others want them. We all like good listeners.
  6. Always be polite and courteous. However mad you feel, stay friendly and open. Anger destroys all attractiveness.
  7. Develop your senese of fun and humor. Have you ever heard anyone criticized for being fun to be around? Or avoided because they make people laugh?

If all else fails in times of stress and crisis, remember this: stay quiet and forget about it afterwards. If you keep your mouth shut, you won’t say things you’ll regret. And if you don’t hold a grudge, you’ll be free to start again without a lot of baggage.

Friendly people have lots of friends. Friends who will speak up for them, help them in tough times and watch out for their best interests. And, best of all, people who will forgive their mistakes and overlook their weaknesses.

That’s something we all need.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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