The trouble with likeable people…

Likeability Vs capability…

I find this happens typically in three contexts which can be the difference between someone who performs and doesn’t, good hire vs a bad hire, between the company hitting the target and not, you get the gist. It actually makes quite an impact!

1 – Interviews. When interviewing it’s really important to not confuse likeability with capability, I’ve been guilty of this loads of times, when I ‘really like someone’ and I just want give them a chance. Being likeable is important but not as important as demonstrating the experience of doing something successfully before – this is why is it imperative to have a competency element to your assessment process and make your decision based on that, not on the feeling you have about them or the classic ‘ I would go for a beer with them’. I would go for a beer with most people, it doesn’t mean they are going to smash it out of the park or be your next top performer! When asking the team for feedback, ask for specifics, why would they be good, what impact will they make on the team, are they threatened by them? Even better if they are. The purpose of the interview is to assess their suitability for the role, and to check they aren’t a massive werido but the first is the most important.

2 – Referencing. When taking references for likeable people it’s really important that you are quite direct with your questions or read between the lines with what the referee is saying. Dave could be the most popular person in the office, but this doesn’t mean he performed at his job well! Make sure your reference comes from someone who directly managed them day to day, and say putting your personal feelings aside for this person, did they perform well? You could start with, we really like Sarah but it’s really important that we understand if she will perform in our work environment as we don’t want to put her in a job that she won’t be successful in and you wouldn’t want her to fail would you? No, no one wants a good person to fail, they just want what’s best for them! Watch out for ‘he’s a really good guy’ or ‘she’s really nice’ no one wants to give a bad reference for someone they like so it’s your job to make sure you ask the right questions. Where did they rank against other team members? How many months were they off target? Verify their figures and keep the reference factual. Chuck in a hypothetical question – if your kids were going to be taken away if they didn’t make sales, would you back them? Ok, maybe not that extreme but something a little bit different than ‘would you rehire this person’ it’s too easy to lie.

3 – Early hires into the business or owners wife’s best friend. The amount of times I hear about this is actually worrying! This happens when there is a very personal relationship between this individual and the owner of the business, they might even be related. The owner / MD / Director will often suffer from rose tinted glasses and won’t see they are bad for business or that they aren’t performing at their peak. Just because someone started in the business in day one or they are a good friend, doesn’t mean they are right the business in year 7. I’m not suggesting let this person go at all, just make sure they are in the right role and they are being developed and not remaining stagnant.

If you have a personal relationship with someone in a business, I think it’s really important they are managed by someone else, this way you will get objective feedback than subjective feedback. Sometimes there is someone better out there for the job so don’t let likeability get in the way, look at turnover in the team of this person and ask their team for feedback, they might just be doing more harm than good!

As ever happy to get thoughts on this and how this may have impacted you in the past!

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