Mar 2016 at 12:08

How to ‘Get’ Someone, Even if You Don’t Like Them

Read time 2 minutes 40

I loved this article by David Kerpen, best-selling author and CEO of Likeable Local – it really resonated with me and reminded me of dozens of meetings with CEOs and Managers who felt that they couldn’t connect with people in their team who were hard-wired differently.

I have completed many a psychometric test with business leaders and their top teams who have unconsciously hired people in their image – the ‘similar to me’ (STM) effect of the interviewing process where we look for those candidates with a compatible background, education, personality traits and behaviours that make us feel comfortable and reduce the potential for challenge.

Some leaders recognise the need for different skills sets and experiences amongst their teams but can be prone to spending more time with the STMs who make them feel comfortable in their skins. I recently toured a growing manufacturing business (yes, there is such a thing in the UK!) and was introduced to the CEO’s production team, of whom he was rightly, very proud. Having increased sales revenue by 57% whilst increasing margin in the past two years he had right to be.

We came to one end of the plant where I noticed a man working diligently in the corner on his own as the CEO guided me swiftly past his work station with no introduction. I stopped and asked who he was.

“Oh that’s John (not his real name). He’s a bit weird and he won’t want to talk to you,” came the response.

I introduced myself to him anyhow and had a conversation with him, asking him about his role, what he enjoyed about his job and what he felt the company did well and could do better. He was reticent to talk at first but, at the end of the conversation he looked me in the eye and told me it was nice to meet me. In the space of 12 minutes he had shared two process improvements that he believed could reduce costs and time wastage for the business. The CEO looked on incredulously.

“He’s probably said more to you in the past 12 minutes than he’s said to any of us in the past three months.” was his response.

John was a very strong introvert, thoughtful, diligent and analytical who did stand out as ‘odd’ amongst the rest of the team who favoured the culture created by the CEO where banter, rip taking and the 80:20 rule had become the norm. His preference was to stay in the shadows and get on with his work.

I asked the CEO, “when was the last time you had a one to one with John and asked him to share his ideas?”

Give each person ‘a damn good listening to’ to really get under the surface

Appraisals or individual reviews had never been a feature of this business and, at the end of the meeting, he agreed to ‘give it a go’ for the first time since taking over the business from his father seven years previously. I asked him to: share the questions he would be asking with his staff prior to those meetings, particularly to enable quieter members to think through their ideas. He also agreed to try to go into each meeting with a positive mind set (even though he felt uncomfortable working in such a personal way), with the intention of really enjoying the conversation. His mantra was to give each individual ‘a damn good listening to’ – a skill that wasn’t really his forte!

I took a call from him the following month – he was as excited as a kid who had just mastered riding a bike.

“Lily, this listening stuff really works! My only problem is, when you get him on his own, I can’t get John to stop talking!”

In two weeks of one to ones, his staff had come up with literally dozens of ideas for business improvements, new R&D opportunities and an innovative new product which the company will be taking to market later on this Spring. The biggest revelation was the conversations with ‘John’ and a couple of other quieter staff. They just needed the space, the air time and the opportunity to feel listened to and not judged to feel able to share the best of themselves.

“It’s brilliant,” concluded the CEO, “I’ve realised through this, that John’s not broken – he’s just different!”

Behaviour Creates Behaviour – for Good or Bad

As I always say to leaders in business, “behaviour creates behaviour” and you can prime your interactions for success or for failure. If you go into a meeting or a conversation believing, ‘this is going to be terrible/difficult/challenging/unpleasant’ (insert appropriate emotion here!) you’ll be right. If you enter the conversation with the intention of adding value and creating the conditions for the other person to shine and to have fun with it, you’ll end up with an entirely different outcome.

So, who do you need to sit down with this week? Which of your personal leadership barriers do you need to break down to increase understanding and improve communication in your team?

Food for thought I hope?

Have a great week.


Lily Newman


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Hi Lily,

Great article and I am a massive believer in this. I always take the time to find out what makes a person tick and even spent 15 minutes talking about stars and space to a teenage boy at my sons football (a brother of player) as that was his area of interest and I think he was very grateful that someone was showing an interest!! I tend to form memorable relationships with clients and potential clients alike from finding out about them. I still remember the guy that likes open water swimming that works at Datacentre and has two daughters that swim in clubs….I've never worked with him, but call every 6 months and ask him about his swimming!

(It doesn’t relate so much in-house as everyone in recruitment is an extrovert)!!

See you soon


Sue Dando

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