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7 ways to improve employee relations

July 29, 2016
There is a secret to becoming a more likable leader. It doesn’t have to do with how tall and charming you are, or how often you give employees a raise.  In fact, we have evidence that the majority of the behaviors displayed by the most likable leaders have to do with the way they interact with employees on a day-to-day basis.  But first, does being liked by your employees even matter?
Most people assume it is possible to be an effective leader without being likable. That is technically true, however you may not like the odds:  We have calculated the probability as 0.052 percent.  In a study of 51,836 leaders, we identified 27 who were rated at the bottom quartile in likability but were in the top quartile for overall leadership effectiveness. That equates to approximately 1 in 2000 cases that a boss who is highly unlikable appears in the top quartile of overall effectiveness.  (We measured overall effectiveness through total results in a set of 360-degree feedback reviews.)
In a recent Harvard Business Review blog we discussed our likability index, which is a broad set of likable behaviors that go far beyond the issues of smiling and having a pleasant personality.  You can see these behaviors and take a self-assessment of your own likability here.
So, if you choose to be more likable, what can you do? To understand what actions most influence a person’s likability, my colleague Joe Folkman and I looked at 360 data from more than 51,000 leaders.  The results highlighted seven key actions that would substantially increase likability scores, as follows:
1. Increase positive emotional connections with others – Just like the flu or a cold, emotions are contagious. If a leader is angry or frustrated that emotion spreads to others.
2. Display rock solid integrity – We like those we trust, we dislike those we distrust.
3. Cooperate with others – Some leaders believe they are in competition with others in the organization; however the purpose of an organization is to unite employees to work together in a common purpose.
4. Be a coach, mentor and teacher – Ask a young adult what a leader does and often the answer you will hear is, "They are the boss, they tell people what to do!" Most leaders know very well how to drive for results.
5. Be an Inspiration – When the 85-year-old Warren Buffett found out he had Stage 1 prostate cancer in 2012, he shared the news in a letter to shareholders in April 2012, even though his sickness would likely affect the value of the company’s stocks.
6. Be visionary and future-focused – When employees don’t clearly understand where they are headed and how they will get there,  it makes them  frustrated and dissatisfied. They feel like a passenger with no control and few other options except to complain.
7. Ask for feedback and make an effort to change – The reality is that most people imagine they are more likable than they actually are.  The only accurate assessment, and the one that matters most, is the perception of others.
This article was prepared by CBT News, a publication of the Car Biz Today Automotive Network.