Q&A with Likability & Leadership Expert Michelle Tillis Lederman

It’s not everyday that you can get professional advice from a leading leadership and communication expert who has worked with companies like Citi Bank, JP Morgan, AIG, Deutsche Bank, Ernst & Young and other Fortune 500 companies. Well, today you’re in for a treat.

I was connected to Michelle Tillis Lederman by a wonderful mentor of mine. Because I’ve spent the time to establish and cultivate a network by adding value, I get connected to amazing people like Michelle. This is why networking is important, which we’ll talk about in the interview below.

Michelle is a best selling author of two books (11 Laws of Likability and Nail the Interview), a keynote speaker, executive trainer, professional coach and founder of Executive Essentials.

Today I’m asking her 5 questions about likability, building your career, how to turn acquaintances into friends and how to make your voice heard in the workplace.

Question #1: What’s the #1 thing that an introvert can do to become more likable?

My gut response is “be themselves” but I get how unsatisfying that answer is. The gut is about embracing their authenticity and not apologizing for it. I don’t believe introverts need to try to be extroverts to be likable.

Instead, they need to leverage their natural strengths with connecting such as listening, asking genuine questions and giving their attention to one person at a time.

A few tweaks that can help are:

  1. Self-disclosure- Be willing to share a little about the topic at hand as well. Self disclosure goes a long way to building connection and trust.
  2. Let others know what you are thinking- An expressionless face can make your conversation partner uncomfortable since there is no information being conveyed through your facial expression. A head tilt, nod, or a simple, “interesting” comment go a long way to put the other person at ease.
  3. Follow up- This goes for everyone really. Don’t assume you have nothing to say or offer. Just send that next communication even if there is little more to say than “nice meeting you.”

[Katrina’s two cents: Facial expressions are a wonderful tip, show that you’re actively listening by showing some emotion in your face. You can furrow your eyebrows when there’s something concerning and smile when there’s something funny or entertaining.]

Question #2: What’s the biggest mistake you see people making when networking?

It shouldn’t be work! I also feel it shouldn’t be overly strategic. Networking only when you have a specific goal in mind may undermine the potential of lasting connections. Build relationships that you enjoy being a part of. Worry less about what you can get out of it.

[Katrina’s two cents: I love this approach. Networking is all about providing value and helping others upfront, without any expectations. You should always be networking. You should be connecting and learning about others and understanding what their goals are so you can help them. Trust me, this approach has taken me a long way. That’s how I got to connect with someone as knowledgeable as Michelle!]

Question #3: What’s the secret to turning an acquaintance into a mentor or lifelong friend?

There is no secret.

Truth is, everyone already knows how and has done this. Think about what worked for you. It may be different for everyone but the drivers are the same, these are the laws of likability I explain in my book The 11 Laws of Likability.  The similarities you find in someone else, the familiarity of having them reappear frequently in your life, the authenticity of your interactions with them, the tangible and intangible value you bring each other… these are the drivers of likability.

[Katrina’s two cents: Finding common ground is a great way to increase likability. Remember, people like people like themselves.]

Question #4: When we spoke for the first time, I felt like I had known you forever and this is something many of your clients say as well. What’s your secret?

I live the laws. I leverage my natural curiosity to learn about the other person. What inevitably happens is I connect the dots to something we both relate to, someone we both know, an idea we both value and I don’t shy away from it, I embrace it. I am excited by it. I take the risk and share and that makes someone feel trusted and comfortable. I am so glad you felt that way 🙂

[Katrina’s two cents: Again, notice how Michelle finds some common ground. Our conversation was so fun, organic and natural and it was the first time we had ever met! If you’re looking to up your likability, check out this post about Ben Franklin and his social hacks.]

Question #5: If I’m an introvert who feels like I’ve been passed up for promotions like salary or promotion, what’s one step I can take to make a change in the right direction?

Build different types of relationships: People need champions, cheerleaders, mentors, followers, sounding boards and confidants in and out of an organization.

For the introvert, champions are one of the most critical relationships you can build. Introverts are best at one-on-one relationships. Finding a champion that has a voice in the organization can ensure there is someone speaking on your behalf.

You want someone who:

  1. you connect with, you respect and respects you and sees your value
  2. has influence and a voice in the organization, someone who is at the table during the promotion and bonus discussions and
  3. is effective at using their voice and will speak up on your behalf.

The second most important relationship to build is a mentor: you increase your likelihood of promotion if you are in an active mentor relationship. Much of the same criteria applies.

The difference in a mentor is that it is someone who understands the work, the career trajectory and the office politics. They are helping you learn, grow and navigate. They are not necessarily in the room to speak for you.

The key is to build and nurture these and many relationships. The more people who are aware of you, the stronger your positioning will be.

[Katrina’s two cents: Michelle is spot-on. Know what works well for you. If you’re an introvert, 1-1 relationships work the best and aligning yourself strategically with the right person in your organization can make or break your career.

Again, notice how Michelle touches on “nurturing” these relationships. It’s not a one-way street, you have to spend the time, invest in getting to know someone and you also have to reciprocate and add value when you can. Show them that you deserve the guidance and mentorship that you’re seeking.]

4 thoughts on “Q&A with Likability & Leadership Expert Michelle Tillis Lederman

  1. A most eye-opening piece. It explored the situation of introverts from an external point of view and offered simple and feasible solutions to problems an introvert would consider complex.
    Thank you for such an extraordinary piece.

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