What’s your NTBL Factor?

Posted January 19, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

A few years ago, Tim Sanders (former Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo and exec with the coolest sideburns in the biz) wrote a book called the L-Factor.  Basically, he wrote how people who are “likeable” get more that they want than people who aren’t likeable.  Not rocket-science, but he did break down how to make yourself more likeable.

I did actually work with someone who had a very low “likeability” factor, despite the fact that she was an exceptional employee.  You’ve probably worked with people like that too… they’re really capable, but (in the words of one of my friends), they’re just a little bit “yeee-eeech”.

But this blog isn’t about likeability factors… it’s about the “need to be liked-ability” factor (NTBL factor).  I’ve been thinking that ditching the need to have your direct reports like you has to be one of the trickiest moves for anyone aspiring to senior levels.  As one fast tracker said to  me… “I would be just gutted if I thought my employees were downstairs complaining about me over coffee.”

To which I delicately responded “well they do, and they are…so get over it.”  (It’s so easy to be cocky about throwing around leadership advice when you’ve already developed the six inch callous over your back from multiple years of overhearing your team belly ache about your various decisions.)

Let’s face it… you can adore your boss and you’re still not going to agree with absolutely every decision he or she makes.  It’s just human nature to complain.  And frankly, in my opinion, it’s really easy to complain about the boss’s decisions from the peanut gallery.  Wait until they walk a mile in your shoes.

But, why is it that – for some of us – getting over the need to be liked by our staff is a tough milestone.  One of the best pieces of advice I got came from a favourite boss in the form of a question: “do you want to be liked as a boss or respected? Cause you ain’t gonna get both.”  (And yes… I did complain about said favourite boss over coffee with peers, which only reinforces my point that you can be and amazing leader and find yourself the target of some “letting off steam” conversations amongst your staff.)

Anyway, that small question made me think differently about what my goals were as a manager/leader.  Personally, my own worst moments in leadership have been when I felt that my own bad decisions have lost an employee’s respect.  Today, I actually find that harder to move beyond than whether or not people liked various decisions I’ve made along the way.

How about you? Do you have a NTBL-factor as a leader?  How have you moved beyond it?  And what’s more important to you… being liked or being respected?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Happy leading!


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