They like you. But do they perform for you?

I asked the young man taking me on a workplace tour about his company’s management team, admitting that I had not met all of them yet; “What are they like?”

We’d been walking and talking for a good amount of time, and so my question was not entirely out of context or noticeably surprising to him.

His response was one I hear relatively often, careful and safe, but not usually offered unless it is mostly true. He said, “They are very well liked.”

Water Lily Pot

It’s an answer which doesn’t tell me much at all, for as I see it, a well-liked manager isn’t necessarily an effective one.

Better to be liked than unliked; no question there. It’s great if people feel you are approachable, and your likeability does factor into your relationship building, and into the coaching that a team will readily accept from you. However the acid test is this: Do people consistently perform for you?

Alaka‘i managers channel available energies into best-possible workplace productivity which is values-centered, customer-focused, and mission-driven. Their popularity can make the effort easier, but you and I both know “nice” managers who simply don’t get much done, and don’t inspire others to get meaningful work done either.

Ramping up that acid test, I also want to know if workplace performance is reliably consistent, whether or not a likeable manager is even around.

The most effective managers I know, are those who are pushing their teams into extraordinary levels of self-direction, frequent collaboration, and productive messiness in the workplace cultures they are fostering.  Do sparks of creativity occasionally fly, sizzling their way into leaps of passion? Are new ideas regularly germinating in a fertile environment, often rooting and bursting into bloom?

Lavender Water Lily

If you feel your people like you, ask yourself why that is.

By all means, congratulate yourself for the human face you put on management, and the good revealed within your likeability factor, for I have no doubt you’ve worked hard to achieve it.

Then to be a great manager, and be Alaka‘i, dig deeper, and ask yourself just how much your team is performing for you, and how much progress they are steadily making toward that vision you have both deemed important, and have committed to.

Ask yourself if your people are enthusiastic, and if they have a positive expectancy of each and every day they clock in. Assess how much people have grown while you have been on watch and in charge. Chalk up a score which details their new learning, and how they have applied it.

Be honest with yourself about how much of their growth was because of you, and because you know this to be true:

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be,
and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832),
German writer, scientist and philosopher


  1. says

    Goethe, the famous opening quote and a manager’s road map.

    I think we need more help in screening future managers for the traits you speak of here Rosa. The problem is: Bob was a pretty good sales guy, so they promoted him to manager. This process happened five more times and now Bob is the head cheese, with five managers underneath him who were all pretty good sales guys. Good management is being defined through the filter of sales. It would be the same if Bob were an engineer, technician or marketing guy – though I think of all, the marketing guy’s got the best chance.
    .-= ´s last blog ..Managers and Goals =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Interesting Dave. The managers we want are those who thrive in developing people, and I would agree that a great marketer has an edge, for great marketers are responding to what drives people. It’s still second best though… we’ve got much work ahead of us getting workforce development to be the cool and sexy career choice in an age being called that of the “disposable worker.”

      So many management ills would be totally avoided if only people got into managing for the right reasons, and you’re right, traditional promotion practices have deeply ingrained habits we’ve got to break free from.

  2. says

    In the years when I managed, I learned this lesson first hand. I was well liked but needed to grow as a manager. Growing into an effective manager meant continuing to treat people with respect but firmly understanding that I would be met with resistance and would not always be liked. Last year, as a business owner I revisited that lesson when a mentor boldly challenged that if everyone likes you, you’re probably not taking enough risks. Our human nature often wants to be liked and accepted but to truly shine in our gifts, we have to get comfortable with not being liked. Children don’t always “like” their parents and rebel against correction but good parents will continue making the right decisions that will help those children to become better adults.
    .-= ´s last blog ..Unleash Your Passion for a Perfect Performance =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Karen, thank you for weighing in on this. You mention respect, and it’s a goal we are wise to aspire to; far better to be respected and liked, something every great manager can achieve. I think where your mentor may have helped you is with the deliberate intention, for we will all say we want likeability and respect, but are we thoughtfully and purposely working to achieve it?