Guest Author: Larry Bonfante

I recently read an article that stated the new area of focus that professionals have identified as a key factor in career success is likeability. This was not at all a surprise to me. I’ve know this and have seen this at play for many years.

In the late 1990’s when I worked at Pfizer I had an important client who was responsible for IT in our Asia-Pacific region. He was a bright, talented and demanding person with high expectations and an important agenda. My team collaborated with him to implement a regional suite of infrastructure capabilities that were critical for his success. At the end of the project he gave me a wonderful compliment that I have never forgotten. He shared “Larry your team did a great job and the results were outstanding. But beyond that, we really enjoyed working with you and your team and look forward to having the opportunity to partner with you in the future.

Wind the clock forward twenty years and he and I have become close personal friends who still make the time and effort to get together for dinner in spite of the fact that we live seven hours from each other.

How many of you used to watch America Idol? Come on nobody’s looking… you can admit it! For many people American Idol is what I refer to as a guilty pleasure. My wife has always loved the show  and since I love my wife I watch it with her. Now it’s hard for me to watch the show and not be judgmental because (little known fact) I actually play guitar and am the lead singer in a rock band. While nobody is giving up the day job, I do know something about what a good vocal performance sounds like. A number of years ago we watched the show and the finals came down to two talented young men…Chris Allen and Adam Lambert. Chris was a very nice kid with a pleasant voice and a laid back vibe (for those of you my age think a younger version of James Taylor). He has a kind of Mid-Western sensibility to him. Adam on the other hand was in your face and flamboyant. The guy had amazing vocal range. I remember referring to him as the second coming of Freddie Mercury (and funny how I was prophetic since years later he is actually touring with Queen as their front man!) His range was incredible…whenever he sang my garage door would open! After the two performed for the judges all three of them (even the cranky Simon Cowell!) clearly stated that they felt Adam was the clear choice. The next night Ryan Seacrest opened the envelope and said “your next American Idol is…. (Drumroll) Chris Allen!” I was blown away! Didn’t America hear what I had heard? While Chris was a talented young man, Adam was clearly the better singer. I turned to my wife and asked her “who did you vote for?” She said Chris! I asked her why, since Adam was clearly the better singer. She said because she liked Chris better!

How many of you have someone in your company who is very talented but a pain in the neck to work with? How do you feel when their name comes up on your phone? Do you have to take a minute to go to your happy place to deal with them? Always remember that people choose to work with us. Therefore being competent and effective is not enough. We have to be likeable so that people will want to work with.

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