Not too long ago, I attended a conference session where the speaker said something like “I want you to walk out of here either loving or hating me”. This statement resonated with me. At the time, I chalked it up to the reason why I share at conferences, to share and inspire. I’m passionate and you may or may not be (or ever) ready for what I’m sharing.
Recently, I’m acknowledging another reason this spoke to me. For as long as I can remember, this is generally people’s reaction to me. Teachers, classmates, colleagues, managers, direct reports, and really anyone either really likes me or really dislikes me. Now people have gone from one spectrum to the other and even occasionally back. But what is clear is that my personality doesn’t leave much room for indifference.
Very early in my career, an executive that I highly respected, once told me “I don’t care if I’m liked, I care if I’m respected.” Even at that time, this made sense to me. His goal was not gaining best friends in the office but being able to lead/influence/inspire people. Now, I understand this at a deeper level. Sometimes the very things that will gain me respect may cause people to dislike me (most of the time, for only a short period of time). For example, giving someone tough feedback. They don’t often walk out of the room thinking you rock, that may come later (after they soak on the information or grow from it) but maybe not.
That said, I don’t think they are mutually exclusive either. If you are a jerk to people, chances are you are not going to be respected. After all, character is so important when it comes to trust.
Yet, leaders can’t allow being liked to trump the right path forward. I can’t say that I’m 100% comfortable when someone on my team doesn’t like me. I’m not even sure I ever want to be able to say that. I’m a social human that invests in people; making people upset doesn’t feel good for me either. So what I am focusing on is how to best engage and support the individuals that are currently not my biggest fans. Sometimes the solution has been a conversation, sometimes I’ve been unable to find a solution. As someone that wants to make a difference, the latter can be emotionally tough. I can pretend all day long but I do have a desire to be liked. I just can’t let it lead me or others.
How do you handle those moments when you are not liked?