Monday, April 18, 2011

Keys to Success: Be a People Person

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

When I sat down and thought about what my version of the keys to success would be, I almost didn’t include this one. After all, we all know people who have achieved some level of success, from mid-level management to multi-millionaire status, who do not have people skills. Heck, some of them don’t seem to even like people.

However, my keys to success are keys to holistic success. In other words, my definition of success involves more than the net on a paycheck or the title on an office door. My definition of success includes those things but also includes strong and healthy relationships as well (with yourself and others). As far as my definition goes, being a people person makes a difference.

Being a people person means you truly show an interest and concern about other people. It starts with a genuine respect. I remember being a snotty middle schooler and thinking I was better than some of the kids at my school. My father set me straight real quick. “We are all on this Earth together,” he told me, “and we all have value and something to contribute.”
So I’m as cordial and polite and friendly to the receptionist as I am to the CEO. And there are times when that friendliness to the little people really pays off. I have a friend who’s a recruiter and she routinely asks the receptionist for her opinion of a job candidate. There have been times when her input has played a critical role in picking between two close candidates.

You see, everyone knows to be nice and pleasant to the interviewer, not everyone knows to be just as nice and pleasant to the receptionist. The receptionist test is a good way to separate the phonies from the real deals.

It starts with respect but it ends in genuine interest. My co-worker is a scuba diver. I’ve never known a scuba diver before! Another co-worker is a state ping-pong champion. I don’t share either interest, but it’s fascinating to hear about both. Another shares my passion for movies and one more shares my twisted sense of humor.

Bonding with them might never help get me ahead, but you never know. What I do know is that bonding with my co-workers makes my days go faster and my work a lot easier. And going to work to a job I enjoy and working with people I like is definitely part of my definition of success.


CC said...

that is so true, and something people forget about all the time. I've heard stories about how getting in good with a secretary and help you get a position just b/c they work closely with the director you want to work for. You just never know who can help you. I work in EEO and many times a director will say, I didn't choose this person b/c they were personable and therefore I didn't think they would be a good manager.

Karyn L Beach said...

It's amazing that being personable counts against people when considering them for management but being a jerk is considered a plus.

I think managers think being personable is akin to being a doormat. The key that they overlook is assertiveness. The ability to stand up for yourself, have the hard conversations and say what needs to be said, is what matters. Unfortunately people associate that behavior with the jerks.

However, you can be personable and assertive.