There is a common problem that holds many people back. And that is the desire to please everyone and be liked by all. So often we mistakenly think that to get ahead in our careers we need everyone all around us to like us. But, if you are constantly worrying about everyone liking you, you are wasting a lot of time on trivialities. If you are always going out of your way to make sure this person – and everyone else – likes you, you’re wasting resources and energy, and you won’t be as effective at your job.
Don’t get me wrong: being liked by colleagues isn’t bad. However, you can’t please everyone all the time and you shouldn’t even try. You don’t need to be unnecessarily mean or bossy either to get ahead. That’s often just as counter-productive as trying to be well-liked. What you do need is to let go of the idea that you have to be liked by everyone at work to succeed.
Some of the most successful people in business today like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Google’s Larry Page, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz all have said that they really don’t care to please everyone, and that has been central to their success.
Admittedly, it can be tough to let go of the desire to please everyone. However, people who let go of being liked by everyone ultimately have better careers than those who don’t let go. Here are six reasons why:
1. They can say no, and it won’t bother them.
That’s because they are empowered. It doesn’t bother them to say “no” to anything that’s not a priority, which means they are unlikely to fall victim to agreeing to things that don’t align with their values or goals just to keep everyone happy.
In an interview with award-winning journalist Betsy Morris about the secrets to Apple Inc.’s success and the prospects of the company succeeding without him, Steve Jobs said:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.”
2. They can give honest and unambiguous feedback.
People who let go of being liked can give honest feedback because they don’t tremble at the thought of upsetting a few people with the truth. Ultimately, honest and unambiguous feedback helps the whole team improve and facilitates workplace advancement.
Again Steve Jobs was a model for why prioritizing results over likability leads to more success in business and life. He believed that beating around the bush in order to save people’s feelings was a form of selfishness.
As Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive recently recounted in The New Yorker, Jobs helped him to see that a deep desire to be liked can undercut the need to give clear, unambiguous feedback. Being vague to spare someone’s feelings is actually an act of vanity.
3. They can take more risks and go for what they want.
People who let go of being liked don’t let what others think stop them from reaching for their dreams. They take more risks and go for what they want. Their courage in risk taking is often rewarded with the perfect role that gives them all the flexibility, fulfillment and joy that they could ever want.
Unfortunately, most people are risk averse and don’t reach for their dreams. Recruitment consultants have mentioned how the greatest challenge they see among female job candidates securing ideal roles is their tendency to be risk averse, and also to worry unnecessarily about what people will say of their ambitions.
Bill Gates says it right, “To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.”
4. They can make tough calls and stick to their guns.
People who let go of being liked are not afraid to make tough or controversial decisions. They can stand their ground without being ruffled by people’s disapproval of them or their decisions. That is because they are self-assured and don’t really care for pleasing everyone. Instead, they are more interested in reviewing the data, suggestions and feedback objectively and getting things done effectively – not on whether or not their decision will be liked by everyone. And that is what makes them great leaders.
Consider all the great leaders you can think of in business and government. What makes them excel at their job? It’s their understanding that sometimes an unpopular decision is just what’s best for business. It’s their ability to make the hard decisions for the greater good of those concerned.
5. They can focus on core goals and pay less attention to sideshows.
People who let go of being liked don’t easily get caught up in what others are saying. This means they are not easily distracted from the goals they’re working toward. When others are busy engaging in petty office gossip or politics, they simply don’t pay much attention to all of that. They remain focused on what matters, which is how their work impacts the bottom line. That ensures they get ahead at work.
In the end, getting the job done right is what matters for your company’s success and your own career growth and development.
6. They can be themselves always.
People who let go of being liked are free to be their true selves. They can express themselves, their likes, their dislikes, their personality without fear of what others will say. They know the need for approval kills freedom and drowns your own voice. It holds you back from speaking your opinions and forces you to hide your true self in an effort to be someone others will like.
Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu says, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.” Even in the battle for a better career, knowing yourself, focusing on your priorities and moving past pleasing others is the key to success. You shine and excel in your career when you let go of being liked and live your life in alignment with what is most important to you.