How many times have you been introduced to someone and you can immediately sense that they don’t like you? When this happens with a new member of your team, your new boss, a prospective new client and the like, you must find a way to quickly turn this situation around. As a leader you can ill afford to have any tension points stand in your way. As the saying goes, you have one shot to make a good first impression. When your first impression doesn’t work in your favor, you must discover ways to course correct – especially if this prospective new relationship has implications for your job performance and the ultimate success of the organization that you serve.
What does this tell us? How to build sustainable relationships and influence others is still one of today’s greatest mysteries. Winning people over is both an art and a science. With all of the personality profiling that is done prior to hiring someone – whether it’s Myers Briggs or the DISC profile– winning people over is not always in instantaneous thing. It takes time – and in a social media world where everything is “immediate” and people expect things to happen in a moment’s notice – leaders must be reminded of this. It’s still about people and their hierarchy of needs. In other words, it’s not about you, it’s about using your leadership to serve others.
Leaders need to take more time to become better acquainted with others and their needs. Establishing a relationship by doing it right from the start will save a lot of time, energy and stress. Yes, this commitment can be difficult but it’s also becoming increasingly important – not only for leaders to get to know those they serve, but equally to allow themselves to be transparent enough for others to get to know them.
I will never forget one colleague who always seemed uncomfortable around me. My boss said that my sense of urgency was too much for her and asked that I find a way to collaborate – at a more even and balanced pace. After months of renewed collaboration efforts, she finally said to me, “Glenn, I always felt uneasy around you because I never thought I could keep up with you. You made me feel that I was underperforming. Now that I understand your leadership style and approach, I see that your intentions are to make those around you better.”
This taught me a valuable lesson as a leader: winning people over first starts by helping others understand your intentions. Don’t leave your intentions a mystery. When people are left guessing, it becomes difficult for them to know what you stand for – and thus they keep their distance and never fully engage with you.
Take a moment to reflect upon those people that you lead and serve. Is there a department head you feel awkward around? A client that doesn’t seem to like being around you? To help you reassess how you can engage more effectively with people, here are five ways that leaders win people over.
- Search for Shared Experiences
Everyone has at least a handful of shared experiences, which means we can always find some common ground with one another. Personality types may differ, but shared experiences allow us to appreciate the “human factor” in ourselves and others.
Winning people over is not about manipulating people to like you, it’s about giving people reasons to respect you – enough that they want to engage with you.
Being a leader in a position of influence doesn’t mean that people will always respect you. Respect is earned and if you are consistent with your behavior – for example, always being a good listener and exercising patience – over time respect will mature into genuine likeability, minimize tensions, and allow positive collaboration to prevail.
- Understand One’s Values and Intentions
As they say, you should never judge a book by its cover. This may be why so many employees dislike their leaders – those that come across as being too polished, academic and precise. Never expressing any self-deprecation gives the impression that they think they are flawless. For many, this persona creates barriers because they don’t believe they can compete or have anything in common.
Leadership in the 21st century is about being authentic and throwing your title out the door. What’s the point in having a prestigious title if people don’t take you seriously? People want leaders that can be trusted and transparent; a leader that supports a value system that is centered on honesty, compassion, open-mindedness, ambition, fairness, accomplishment and responsibility.
Your values influence how you naturally think, act and engage with others. Understanding someone else’s values helps you realize their intentions and build trust. When there are no hidden agendas, it becomes much easier to coexist. When the values and intentions of people align, it makes it easier to build rapport and establish foundations for potentially long-term relationships.
- The Head and the Heart
Don’t be afraid to loosen up and show some compassion. People tend not to like leaders who never show any heart. Care about how you lead, why you lead, and who you lead – and always be deliberate about it.
We are transitioning from a knowledge-based to a wisdom-based economy. It’s no longer just about what you know – but what you do with what you know. It’s about opening up your heart and leading with kindness. The 21st century leader knows that significance is more sustainable than success and that respect is more important than recognition.
Never be too proud to show some vulnerability. As a leader, you never have to go it alone. We all have problems and it takes a team to resolve them.
Show your personal side and let people in when the time is right. For example, introduce them to your family when they visit you at work or take the time to talk about your parents and other role models who shaped you. Winning people over is not about manipulation, it is about integration – a balance of the head and the heart.
- Get Your Hands Dirty
Leaders must touch the business just as much as they lead it. People are unimpressed and uncomfortable with leaders that just sit behind their desks, delegate all the work, and do little but observe. Winning people over is about showing them that you are in it to win it together. When you get your hands dirty, your employees and clients know that you are not a “one trick pony” – but rather a multi-dimensional leader who has the backs of others and can get the job done. Getting your hands dirty is about standing up for the people you serve, and helping them achieve their goals and desires.
Certain people may never like you, but it’s important to at least earn their respect in order to be able to work together and support one another for a healthier whole.
- Increase Your Engagement
It’s much easier to win people over when you make a genuine effort to engage with them – even those that seem to keep their distance from you. For example, if they have earned the right through their performance, involve those you want to win over in meetings and activities that show you value their voice and opinion. Allow them to have a seat at the table where they can add value.
Show people that leadership is more important than a popularity contest. Invest in the relationship. Empower them. Show them you are willing to take risks to further advance the relationship. Earn their trust and respect. If your leadership style and approach makes others feel threatened, uncomfortable or annoyed – perhaps your leadership style is outdated.
Winning people over takes time and tremendous patience. It’s an investment that only you know whether or not it’s worth making. Perhaps it isn’t a good fit – step back and don’t allow your emotions to get in your way. Be an objective leader that always has the greater good and a healthier whole in mind.
Cut-cee: Glenn Llopis