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

Great Startup Teams Foster a Culture of Likability

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

Gust Launches Comprehensive Equity Management Platform for Cap Table Management and 409A Valuations

Gust announces acquisitions of Sharewave and Preferred Return; creates the most robust and affordable equity management solution for early-stage startups.

June 22, 2016 – NEW YORK, NY –  Gust, the global service provider powering the entrepreneurial ecosystem, announced today the launch of a comprehensive equity management platform, Gust Equity Management. The new platform provides early-stage companies with powerful

Read more >

From Accelerators to Venture Capital: What is best for your startup?

With startup growth up 61% since 2014 and more investment programs emerging, it can be overwhelming for founders to know just where to jump in. As the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, MassChallenge has helped 835 startup companies around the world, who have raised over $1.1 billion in funding and created over 6,500 jobs. We have seen startups at

Read more >

Valuation Part I: Peeling the Onion, or How Top Investors Value the Startups They Invest In

Early-stage technology company valuations are generally a crap-shoot. Bill Payne did a great post about this in October 2011. This post builds on top of his work, and attempts to shed additional light on the valuation process.

New founders may think that startup valuations work like this:

I figure out what the value of my existing company is I figure

Read more >

Starting a startup as CTO / Head of Product

After less than a year, Glassbreakers is now a team of 10, we have thousands of active users on our free product, we’ve expanded into enterprises with paying customers and raised over a million in seed funding. After a few of my Glassbreaker matches inquired, I started to reflect on what it’s like to build a startup

Read more >

Raising Capital As A First Time Founder

A year ago, in mid September 2014, I walked out of a Starbucks in San Francisco with the very first check from an angel investor for Glassbreakers. Though it was only $5,000, it was enough to prove to myself and my co-founder, Lauren Mosenthal, that we could actually fundraise for our startup. We already had 1,000 women signed

Read more >

Comments

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

  1. The ELEVEN commandments.