A successful sales executive recently shared an important insight with me.  In his 41 years of professional experience, its the first minute in every new relationship that matters most.  There are two reasons for this:

  1. We make a decision within that first minute on whether we like or dislike a person. This first impression is also hard to change.
  2. We prefer to do business with people that we like.

This quick assessment of friend or foe goes back to the prehistoric era.  In those days, we had to decide if we were meeting someone who was going to share a cave, or throw us out to a Saber-toothed tiger.

As a leader, the question is – how do you strike that positive cord quickly in a relationship?

One thing I’ve come to appreciate after conducting thousands of 1×1 interviews, coaching and development discussions, is that most of us are driven by personal goals.  A passion or obligation that falls outside of the office.

I’ve had conversations with friends who are simply counting down the days – 20 years away – when their government pension will kick in.  That pension is the end goal and staying relevant long enough until the government parachute kicks in is what motivates them.

Then there are those who understand that our time here is short and they use that as motivation to get things done.  They make certain there are no regrets during their final days.  It’s fun working with these types as they tend to have a perspective that diffuses stress while moving initiatives forward.  Their motto is:  don’t dwell and waste precious time on the trivial.

Wherever you sit on this ambition spectrum, there are three traits we all share. As a leader, leveraging these will help you become more relatable and likeable.  You will be seen as original, caring and someone others want to work with.

  1.  Everyone wants to feel that their opinion is valued.  Asking questions and acknowledging someone’s point of view is the quickest way to establish rapport. Even if you disagree with their opinion, the social desire to reciprocate behaviour ensures they will take the time to validate your opinion as well.
  2. Understand your teams personal desires.  Link how being successful in their job can help achieve these desires.   Taking the time to understand what is important to your people helps build a strong followership.  You rarely have to deal with top talent leaving when taking the time to help others achieve their desires (why would they go?!)
  3. Too many people suffer from the ‘sitcom syndrome.’  In a 30 minute sitcom, you have 22 minutes of programming and 8 minutes of commercials.  The commercials are a necessary distraction as they essentially pay for the program you are watching. Applying this ratio to our daily lives, we tend to let our work stresses dominate the 22 minutes and allow only 8 minutes to enjoy the fruits of our labour.  Leaders who can help reverse this way of thinking invariably make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Providing perspective is an important leadership skill.  I’ve found that when you place things in perspective for your team, they in turn pay this approach forward.  Our world becomes a more enjoyable place one conversation at a time.

I’ll leave this post with a quote that has helped place perspective in my life.  The quote is from the late US Senator Paul Tsongas, who died early at the age of 55.  Before passing he shared:

“Nobody on their deathbed has ever said I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

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