Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

Great Startup Teams Foster a Culture of Likability

Larry Ellison Photo by Oracle PR

You don’t have to be likeable to everyone to be a great entrepreneur, just to the people who count. Of course, we can all point to apparent exceptions, like Ted Turner or Larry Ellison, who are sometimes seen as lions, downright predators, or even jerks. Yet I’m told that even these guys are considered quite likable by an intimate group of business and personal associates.

So likability is an elusive quality. It doesn’t mean always being perky and bright and constantly being happy. What makes each of us likable is distinct to us, and to some degree it’s in the mind of the beholder. But the basic drivers of likability are the same for most of us, and Michelle Tillis Lederman, in her book “The 11 Laws of Likability” has summarized these nicely:

  1. Be your authentic self. Don’t try to be someone that you are not. Other people quickly see through this façade, and lose respect. Find the good in difficult situations or personalities. Work on improving the real you, rather than building a better façade.
  2. You have to like yourself first. Don’t expect others to like you if you have a bad self-image. Practice positive self-talk using genuine accomplishments to pave the way for authentic productivity and success. Absorb the new approach and make it real.
  3. Perception is reality. How you perceive others is your reality about them, and the same is true for them of you. It is far easier to make a good first impression than to change a bad one. Likability is leaving people with positive perceptions.
  4. Exude energy in all your actions. What you give off is what you get back, and your own output can energize other people or deflate them. Channel your authentic energy to be genuine and likable, even when faced with difficulties and challenges.
  5. Curiosity never killed a conversation. Showing genuine curiosity about a person’s job, life, interests, opinions, or needs is the best way to start a conversation, keep it going, and make you likable. Check for matching needs for help rather than demanding help.
  6. Practice listening to understand. If you want others to understand and like you, you have to understand them by truly listening to what they are communicating. Don’t forget that good listening is done with you eyes and other body language, as well as your ears.
  7. Show people how you are like them. Look for common interests and backgrounds, shared experiences and beliefs, to find similarities that can help you build connections with other people. People like people who are like them.
  8. Create positive mood memories for other people. People are more apt to remember how you made them feel than what you said. It’s hard to be likeable when you intimidate people, practice insensitivity, or otherwise make them feel uncomfortable.
  9. Stay in touch and remember connections. Showing genuine curiosity about a person’s job, life, interests, opinions, or needs is the best way to start a conversation, keep it going, and make you likable. Stay in someone’s mind to make them comfortable.
  10. Give something without expecting a return. There are countless ways to give freely to others, including making introductions, sharing resources, doing favors, and giving advice. What goes around comes around.
  11. Have patience, don’t expect benefits from every contact. Likeable people don’t demand value from every interaction. Stay open to the possibility that results may take time, and come in ways not obvious today.

An old Harvard Business Review article, “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks,” looks at how people choose those they work with. It shows that people choose who they partner with at the office according to two criteria. One is job competence (Does Joe know what he’s doing?). The other is likability (Is Joe enjoyable to work with?).

In many cases, likability actually trumps competence. So unless you already have the money and position of one of the lions mentioned earlier, it’s worth your time to focus on both likability and relevant business skills, as well as relationships. Likeability is everyone’s business, and people do business with people they like. How high would you score on the likability scale?

Written by Martin Zwilling

user Martin Zwilling Founder and CEO,
Startup Professionals

Martin is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. He is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners.

prev next

You might also be interested in

The Discipline of Execution Defines an Entrepreneur

When entrepreneurs come to me with that “million dollar idea,” I have to tell them that an idea alone is really worth nothing. It’s all about the execution, and investors invest in the people who can execute, or even better, have a history of successful execution. Execution is making things happen, and for startups it usually means making change happen,

Read more >

10 Incentives For Entrepreneurs To Bootstrap Their Startup

Image via Pixabay

I’ve always wondered who started the urban myth that the best way to start a company is to come up with a great idea, and then find some professional investors to give you a pot of money to build a company. In my experience, that’s actually the worst way to start, for reasons I will outline here,

Read more >

The Right Startup Advisors Are As Valuable As Money

Warren Buffett advises President Obama, image via Wikipedia

If you are a new entrepreneur, or entering a new business area, it’s always worth your time to assemble an Advisory Board of two or three executives who have travelled that road before. You need them before you need funding, and if you select the wrong people, or use them incorrectly, no

Read more >

Surround Yourself With People Smarter Than You

Einstein image via Flickr by Sebastian Niedlich

Helpers do what you say, while good help does what you need, without you saying anything. People who can help you the most are actually smarter than you, at least in their domain. Top entrepreneurs spend more time putting the right team in place to accomplish their objectives than they spend on any

Read more >

The Planned Iteration Startup Launch Minimizes Risk

Eric Ries on Lean Startup methodology, via Wikipedia

The traditional mode of starting a company has been to plan a serial process, where you complete once all the steps, leading to the “big bang” launch of the company. I strongly recommend a dramatic departure from this model, called “planned iteration” or Lean Startup methodology, where you assume you won’t get

Read more >

Comments

One thought on “Great Startup Teams Foster a Culture of Likability”

  1. The ELEVEN commandments.