Do They Really Like Me? Does It Matter?

Many years ago, Sally Field famously accepted her Oscar, declaring, “You like me,” she said. “You really like me, ” strongly emphasizing the word ” really. ” What she actually said was, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me right now; you like me.” 

We probably misremember or misheard the quote because it isn’t just actors who are motivated by being liked; we all are. Psychologists say this misquote is sticky because it exemplifies a central human need.

And whether we are liked impacts our ability to have long-term, lasting success. Likability is an essential component of EQ, and it impacts the legacy we leave.

Of course, when taken too far, a focus on likeability can also impact our ability to have lasting success. 

Last week, I watched Death of a Salesman for the first time in many years. It is a tragic story about a salesman in the 1940s who believes that likeability is all one needs to succeed. And, not surprisingly, he finds out that it isn’t. 

Yet, we see the importance of likeability play out in business and, most visibly, in politics. 

Here in Chicago, we did not reelect our last mayor because lots of people don’t like her. Contrast that with Mayor “Ritchie” Daley, who served five terms from 1989 to 2011. Mayor Daley was extremely popular. As a result, he could do things people didn’t like (like swoop in and close an airport in the middle of the night, without any authority to do so) because people liked him, even if they didn’t always like what he did. (On side note, the airport closing turned out to be something the citizens of Chicago liked because it became a lovely park and concert venue). And our parks and the overall beauty of the city are part of Mayor Daley’s legacy.

Working with CEOs and C-suite executives, I observe the same phenomenon. Like Sally Field, the leaders who are really liked and respected by their teams get results. They get a pass when they make a mistake, especially when they own it and admit it. And more importantly, they get support when they want something to happen.

As we consider our own leadership, we should ask ourselves, perhaps daily: Even though I may already be respected, what can I do today to hone my EQ skills and increase my likability?

I Appreciate Your Grace

In the last few weeks, more than once, I’ve heard the comment, “I appreciate your grace or thank you for your grace.” 

  • Is it driven by the time of the year? 
  • Or the challenges of our divisive society?
  • Or the pace at which so many of us are moving?

Whatever the reason this is becoming a familiar refrain, it is a reminder of what it means to accept. Asking for grace is asking for acknowledgment of my humanity. Giving others grace is a compassionate act that says, “I won’t judge you.” 

In a world where judgments can be swift and unforgiving, giving grace can be a powerful reminder of the value of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness in building relationships and community.

Happy Holidays. 

Are We Having Fun?

First, I have news: I am excited to share that as a complement to my You Pivot™ Program, I have engaged with the University of Chicago’s Leadership & Society Initiative as a founding instructor and executive life coach.

Every now and then, the subject of fun comes up in a meeting with a client, with my client saying something like, “I am not having fun,” or “I don’t allow myself to have fun,” or, “I don’t have time for fun.” 

Adult life is often a whirlwind of responsibilities, deadlines, and routines, leaving little room for the joys of unadulterated fun. Yet healthy adults recognize the positive mindset that results from having fun is a necessity for mental and emotional well-being.

Recognizing this, I frequently recommend The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama. One of my many learnings from these two wise men is that fun can mean different things to different people. The key is how we feel when we are doing it. 

My own story about having fun came up in a recent conversation with a good friend who said, “My husband keeps telling me I need to spend more time playing.”

Her comment resonated with me, as my husband and some of my male friends have said the same to me.

While neither of us considers ourselves “playful,” we both like to have fun. While our definition of fun doesn’t include going to the playground or even adult playgrounds like golf courses, we agreed that our time together in conversation is something we both describe as fun, as are our trips to exotic places and visits to art museums. 

This conversation made me wonder, 

  • Do men and women define the words play and fun differently to themselves?
  • Or is play an extrovert term rather than a gendered term? 
  • Is one person’s play or fun, another’s work? For example, an introverted, detail-oriented person might find it fun to analyze spreadsheets, while an extrovert would describe this as work.

Things (and people) Are Not Always As They Appear

I recently met with someone who came to our meeting with a lot of assumptions about me. It was a difficult meeting, and it reminded me of the dangers of the judgments we make, the judgments I make.

We make assumptions daily, mostly about other people. Our assumptions are like silent storytellers shaping our thoughts, beliefs, and actions daily. They are the shortcuts our minds take to navigate a complex world, helping us process information quickly.

At the same time, these beliefs can cause disagreements that weren’t there to begin with. And more importantly, they can cause us to miss out on a rich experience with another person.

  • We assume a person looks a certain way because…
  • We assume a person responded to us a certain way because…
  • We assume a person took action or didn’t take action because…

In a world that thrives on complexity, assumptions are both allies and adversaries. Striking the right balance, acknowledging their presence, and learning to use them judiciously can help us navigate the intricate web of life more effectively.

What if, instead of assuming, we paused and asked questions like:

  • What is the reason you made this choice or took this action?
  • What is going on in your day? What happened before our meeting?
  • What can I learn from you about what I want to know? What can I learn from you about me?

The Answer Is In The Question

One of the life lessons I learned early in my career as an executive coach is the answer is in the question. By asking better questions, we enable others to come to their own resolutions. The truth is, only when someone deeply understands their issue will they take action.

Most of us in business are problem solvers, and the answer to someone else’s problem or challenge often seems obvious, so we rush in with advice without stopping and asking questions. What I have learned, and continue to be reminded of daily, is that by asking more poignant questions, the resulting answer may not only be better, but it may also be different than what we perceived as evident before we asked.

When we ask the better question, we offer the other person the gift of self-exploration, and in return, we may have the privilege of witnessing a transformation.

You Say Tomato

In my work as an executive life coach, I am constantly reminded that even though we are all part of the human species with many common characteristics, we see the world differently.

We expect this to be so when we travel internationally or interact with people of differing ethnic, cultural, and national backgrounds. Most of us have a heightened awareness of our differences in these situations. We realize we need to pause, think about the norms of the other person, think about what we have learned about their culture, and modify our interaction and behavior accordingly. 

An easy example is how we exchange business cards. In the U.S., when we even use business cards, we toss them on the table. In Japan, a business card is “presented”; held in two hands and a formal exchange.

Yet, when dealing with people who speak our same language, we often forget to pause. We forget that just because we speak the same language, may even come from the same community, we see the world differently. 

The closer our relationship with the other person, the more likely we will forget. We carry on and behave in a manner that comes naturally to us, and when it works, it works. And when it doesn’t, we leave a wake. Sometimes we recognize the wake we are leaving and work to repair it; sometimes, we don’t see it.

When we are in a leadership position and leave a wake, it is rarely brought to our attention directly. Instead, we learn about our impact on the actions and behaviors of others. Often we don’t connect the dots and see that our wake caused the behavior in others we don’t want to see.

So, what to do? Here are the questions I am asking myself:

  • How do I slow down to have this heightened awareness in all conversations?
  • Once I notice the conversation requires special attention, like the business card exchange, what do I already know, and what do I need to learn about the other person that will help me handle my delivery in a way that lands as intended?
  • When have I left a wake, what do I need to do to clean it up?

Walk? Run? Fly? Or Even Crawl…

It is sometimes hard to know when to walk, run, fly or even crawl. In our fast-paced world, we strivers tend to default to running. 

My sense is that different circumstances require different speeds, and most of the time, I find it is best to let things unfold at their own pace. 

When I remember to pause BEFORE taking action, I ask myself these questions to determine which pace makes the most sense:

  • If I am feeling a sense of urgency, what is driving it?
  • What will happen if I let others drive the pace rather than me?
  • If I slow down my pace, what benefits or costs will result?
  • If I speed up my pace, what benefits or costs will result?
  • What will happen if I choose to observe rather than act for some time?

Optimize vs. Maximize

When I googled optimize vs maximize, I found this comparison “Maximize is about raw return, about getting maximum revenues and profits. Optimize is about ROI—seeking results relative to the investment required.

So why would we ever choose to maximize? Yet some of us default to the maximize choice without even thinking about the difference.

  • How often do we notice something, point it out, and then regret it later, wishing we had kept quiet? 
  • How often do we wait for more or better information and miss an opportunity?

There is both a time factor and a human factor to optimizing ROI. We often wait too long and strive for that final 5%, hoping to have perfect info upon which to base our decision. 

Or, instead of building up the confidence of the person doing the job, we ask for one more change, one more fix, and lose the opportunity to show appreciation for what the person has already accomplished.

In our quest for excellence, we sometimes forget that perfection and excellence are not the same, that excellence can be knowing what to accept as good enough and what to overlook.

Here’s an idea.

Today, instead of looking around and noticing what is missing, what if:

  • You look instead for what is right?
  • You see a critical item that is working and give someone specific, positive feedback?
  • You decide to overlook something that may be good enough given its relative importance, even if it isn’t exactly what you wanted?

Sometimes, It Really Is That Simple

In this complex world we live in, we sometimes ignore the obvious. Today’s technology tools enable us to test and analyze just about anything.

While these tools have led to innovation and life-saving discoveries, I have begun to wonder if the complexity of our society is also leading us to miss the simple answers. Are we missing the obvious along the way to finding a solution?

The following experience happened a while back, and I often use it to remind myself to pause and look first for a simple answer, even when it may not seem obvious.

My internet service was continually cutting out. It would go down for a few minutes, sometimes an hour or so, and would always come back on its own. This situation continued for months. I called for service many times, and each time, the provider sent a new technician to search for the source of the problem and fix it. They replaced modems, replaced wires, and genuinely tried to fix it. 

I became convinced the problem must be with the wiring in the building, so I hired an independent company who came out and checked the internal wiring. Every expert, and there were many, said it should be working. But it wasn’t. 

Finally, I called a technician whose name I had kept because he had been particularly helpful in the past. I told him the whole story, and he sent his supervisor out. The supervisor asked a few questions, listened to my story, and solved the problem in 5 minutes. 

How did he do it?

The answer sounds like one of those brain teasers. Actually, I guess it was. What he did was simple. He asked a few questions, listened to my answers, and since everyone else had looked for a complex problem, he began by looking for a simple one. It turned out he was on the right path. There was a loose wire where the system attached to the building. He tightened the wire, and I have not had a problem since!

My takeaway from this…

When something isn’t working, pause. Then ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and begin by looking for a simple rather than a complex cause and solution.

Is It Capacity Or Is It Making Choices?

As an Executive Life Coach for CEOs, I’ve seen several common traits in those who have successfully grown their businesses. I’ve told stories in the past about the importance of having a vision, having the right people, and having strong execution. Another more subtle characteristic shared by successful leaders, they seem to have an incredible “capacity.”

Webster defines capacity as:

  • the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating 
  • an individual’s mental or physical ability
  • the faculty or potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating
  • the facility or power to produce, perform or deploy: maximum output

It’s this facility for maximum output to which I am referring, the ability to take on more, handle more stress, be present regardless of outside circumstances, or simply do more. It’s more than ability, it’s, well, capacity.

And, here’s what I observe. While it appears that these leaders can simply handle more and do more than others, they also can choose. To make a choice and accept that when they choose, they may disappoint someone. And they allow themselves to be okay with that.