TEAM BUILDING

Use Charm to Succeed (Without Being Creepy)

You can't get by on good looks and intelligence alone. You need to be charming if you want to inspire and motivate.
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Does one really need to be charming for success? Take into consideration the dictionary definition of charming: Pleasing and delightful. Think about the people with whom you most want to work. Chances are they have these qualities. Charming people attract opportunity and can more easily engage others to their cause. Many people exude natural charm. But others have to work at it.

Whether you are born a natural charmer or a bit nebbish, improving your charm skills won't require a charm school. Just take some simple direction and give it a little practice. Try these six tips below. Charm has its limits, so use some restraint. I've given some boundaries so you can recognize when you might be over-using charm to the point of being a creep.

1. Dress to Impress

People will judge you by your personal appearance when sizing you up, so it's good to have a sense of style and a reasonably polished exterior. Clean, pressed, fashionable clothes and good grooming will help people know that you care about the impression you make. Pay attention to the little details like well-kept shoes and cleanly manicured nails.

Creep Factor:  Unless you work in couture, over-indulgence in obscure fashion will make people wonder if you can be trusted in a professional environment. Show personal style without looking like you are heading for a night of clubbing (except of course if you're in the clubbing biz.) Overindulgence in flashy, expensive labels for the sake of bragging can also make people feel uncomfortable. Make your outfits company and industry appropriate.

2. Make Eye Contact

Most people don't trust others who can't look someone in the eye. Make an effort whenever someone is communicating with you to make a face-to-face connection. You may be busy in your office or on your computer, but it's easy enough to stop and look up at the person inquiring. You'll make him or her feel important and worthy, which will make you more likable.

Creep Factor: Don't stare. When in conversation take a moment to break the eye contact and blink or look away briefly. Otherwise you'll come off as threatening and weird. Also be careful not to stare at someone from a distance.  They may the feel the vibe and others may notice you, which is sure to be talked about in the lunchroom.

3. Smile

A grumpy, dour face does not charm people, except maybe on a bloodhound. Show a pleasant, animated expression when you communicate. People want to work with others who can demonstrate happiness and a love for life.

Creep Factor: Don't over-animate your face or be disingenuous. If you're just not feeling good, either work on finding the joy in the day or keep your communication to a minimum. Fake smiles and exaggerated joy just comes off bizarre and phony.

4. Shake Hands Firmly

People do respond well to physical contact when it is intentional and appropriate. That first handshake will make an impact, so if you are in the US, make it firm and direct. For international travelers, be aware that there are many cultural differences in the handshake and the responsibility is on the traveler not to offend. Occasional physical contact with colleagues--like a quick, light touch on the arm or shoulder--can be ok and sometimes endearing when kept within proper context and limits.

Creep Factor: Too much touching or touching anywhere near sensitive areas will raise issues of confusion, awkwardness and potential sexual harassment concerns. People may not tell you when you cross the line, especially if you are their superior, but if you are paying attention you should sense they are uncomfortable. If unclear on someone's boundaries, err on the side of less physical contact in a work environment.

5. Be a Bit Clever

People love to learn and laugh. So naturally, smart people who can entertain with humor and stories are very popular and can command a crowd. Expand your repertoire of knowledge and anecdotes so you can be interesting.  Pay attention to current events and look for the odd and funny in everyday life. Putting a smile on someone else's face is a gift that will not go unappreciated.

Creep Factor: Leave the crass, mean and profane stories to a non-work environment. Here's a rule of thumb, if you wouldn't see the language or joke printed on your company website, then it probably isn't tasteful enough for your colleagues. 

6. Take a Personal Interest in Others

People respect others who care enough to show sincere interest in people's lives. Asking someone about his or her interests will make him or her feel important and show you to be selfless and gracious. It will also make them more interested in learning about you.

Creep Factor: Give people their personal space both physically and emotionally. Asking too many intimate questions, stalking their personal pages or digging into their desk or journals is considered invasive and threatening. Use this simple guideline, don't go where you haven't been specifically invited.

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Last updated: Sep 16, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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