The Competency vs. Likability Conundrum

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Try doing business without being likable. Getting connections and deals become hard quickly. We live with immense choices in who we want to deal with, and unpleasantness can simply be ignored for the next great option.

Of course, there are a lot of charmers out there as well. They can be completely likable and know how to create that aura of likability through warmth, flattery, smiles, encouragement and so many other gestures we appreciate in friendship.

When given a choice we do business with people that we like. Ideally, the likable people are competent as well. Likability is fantastic when we are talking short-term, but long-term still comes down to competence. We have deliverables, customers to please and dreams to achieve. A likable, incompetent person is not going to help us if the goals are real.

We know to avoid incompetent, unlikable people. I think people will tolerate unlikable, competent people. But those relationships tend to dissolve over time when the right crisis or opportunity come along.

The tricky decisions come into play with likable, incompetent people. Do you have a blind spot, or a soft spot, for such souls? If you find yourself making excuses, rationalizing or defending such people, perhaps your sympathies have taken you too far from center.

The carrying costs for the likable, incompetent person builds up over time. And if times are fat or life is good, fine. Enjoy the company and friendship.

If you are building an organization, the competent folks can grow resentful when they see the deference and overlooking eyes you may have for incompetence. You may not call it that, but it’s there for everyone to observe.

A lot of trying to get where you want to go has to do with your decision making on talent, opportunities and risk. When you look at your results and what you want for yourself, consider this one area and get honest with yourself. Do you reward incompetence? Does likability simply disarm you? You might need a way of getting clear and avoid the traps you create for yourself.

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