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Not a People Person? How to Fake It 'Til You Make It

Great leaders know how to connect with people, even if they're not naturally outgoing. Personal warmth can be cultivated. Here's how.
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I have always been described as a warm person and leader. It's served me well throughout my career. People have taken a genuine interest in me and rooted for me based on the fact that they felt connected to me.

When people work for me, they feel that I genuinely care about their interests, and am invested in their success. While I certainly am invested heavily in all relationships that I have, including partners, employees, and family members, I do think that there are some lessons to be learned for people who are not as inherently warm that might help them appear more approachable, endearing, and well, likeable.

1. Warm up your face. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who avoids eye contact? It's unnerving, right? How about someone whose face is in a frown even when in a resting position? Try looking directly at the person you're speaking to, and try smiling. Even when delivering tough news, watch your facial expressions.

2. Put on a different pair of shoes. Step out of your shoes and step into the shoes of the person you're speaking with. Here's the hard part: Do this even if you disagree with the person. Empathy is not about being right or wrong. It's about understanding where the person is coming from and relating.

Many times I have had someone sit in my office with a huge gripe about something that I think is pretty ridiculous. i almost always try and relate, and validate how they feel.

"That must be hard" is a powerful and effective phrase that can have a tremendous impact.

It doesn't mean that you agree with the person's viewpoint, it just means that you recognize that a particular challenge is hard for them.

3. Share your story. To be a great leader, you have to let your guard down just a little bit. I find that sharing experiences I have had in my career, even difficult ones, often inspires employees.

When someone is feeling frustrated in their role, I listen to them, and then I share a story about how I was once frustrated in my own role. I also share how I handled it. Warm leaders share stories, not judgement, and allow people to come to their own learning from your shared experience.

4. Recognize individuals. As a leader, you need to be confident, strong, and a force of nature. And if you're a very public leader, you're often out of the office a lot. Take the time to notice when individual employees do great things. Then let them know you see it.

5. Don't be a pushover. Don't mistake warmth for being a total softie. Leaders need to lead, and that means making really tough decisions. A warm leader is able to communicate tough decisions in a gentle manner and is able to make their team feel supported throughout the experience.

Do you think warmth is an important characteristic in leadership? Share your thoughts below.

IMAGE: Gallery Stock
Last updated: May 1, 2014




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