How to be Effective AND Liked at work

Hey Parent Brains – it’s important that we are both effective AND liked in the workplace.

By being effective you will deliver business value, increase your business results and be more employable in the process.

By being liked, respected and having rapport with others, you will be able to work well with others, garner more support and open career doors you may never have known existed. People will want to join you to get the job done. People will gravitate to you. You will build good teams to get things done.

We’ve all worked with these people who are uber effective. They get the job done, but they leave a trail of human devastation behind them. They are effective but people don’t like them much.

Equally, we’ve worked those people who are lovely. Like a cuddly bear. The problem is people like them, but they wonder how they are still employed. They are liked, but not very effective.


There are times when you’ll need to flex and be disliked but effective. For example, having to deal with a low performer, or reducing headcount during a redundancy, or having a crunchy conversation with someone about how you’ve been treated. It’s the effective thing to do, but someone may dislike you in the process.

Equally, good employees know when to put business results to the side and be liked. They do this during relationship building (as you’re getting to know people), when people are taking the time to learn new skills, or maybe when a person in your team is having a personal crisis that is effecting their work output.

Treading the line between being effective AND liked, means you need to know how to operate on both sides – it’s a skill and set of behaviours I don’t often see in the workplace.

When you see it, you know it’s the hallmark of an effective employee. You want to work with these people – they help form amazing teams. Teams that are focussed on delivering, but are respectful and fun teams to be in.

And how do you develop this ability to walk that line?

  • By understanding the real value you add to the business – what’s expected from you.
  • By caring about the people you work with – and approaching them with outstanding relationship and communication skills

Let’s dig in.

What does the business need you to deliver?

When I run a workshops I always ask the attendees to put their hands up if they have absolute clarity over the exact business results they are expected to deliver. I rarely get many hands raised.

The few people who do raise their hands often don’t actually have business results to deliver. They have tasks. And underneath these tasks they often don’t know how this activity relates to a business number, or adds value to the customers.

I get lots of:

  • “A powerpoint outlining the processes of doing BLAH”
  • “A change management strategy document”
  • “A document”
  • “Some code for feature X”

All surface level.

When asked why they are producing what they are producing, I often get blank faces. It’s frightening. But it’s positive for you as an employable Parent Brain. You get to define this stuff, lead on it and show the business how a professional employee works.

There is SO much work being done in the business world that has no obvious value to it.

So, the first step to being effective at work is to understand how the work you do adds value to the business AND delivers what your managers are expecting from you.

I see lots of people dabbling around with recruitment, process improvement and proof of concepts around new initiatives – all reasonable and probably worthwhile, but not the things that the business is expecting them to deliver. So it comes as a shock, when at the end of the year, there is a performance problem with that person.

If you deliver lots of awesome stuff, but it’s not the stuff you were expected to deliver – was that a success? Unlikely.

Get clear on what’s expected from you.

Don’t be naive. Seek the answer.

Don’t be naive enough to assume that you boss will tell you what your delivery expectations are. They may not even know what they are expected to deliver. Good managers will cascade. Many have no clue.

It’s on you to seek it out.

Ask your manager. If no answer, ask their manager.

Look at the business objectives and deconstruct what part you may play in that.

Formulate your own business results – with tangible deliveries / numbers – and put that as a proposal to your manager. Gain approval and consensus on what you’re expected to deliver – get it documented. Work towards those objectives.

Keep checking in with your manager – and ensure expectations are still in alignment.

Once you know your business deliverables – you can now organise yourself and other people around them.

Challenge anything that is nonsense – carefully.

Sometimes you’ll be given targets, deliverables and objectives that don’t make sense.

Apply plenty of critical thinking. It’s not uncommon to find competing deliverables, or goals that simply don’t make sense.

I’ve seen first hand managers handing-down business results that compete with each other, or contradict with deliverables from other teams.

I’ve seen targets set that have been plucked out of thin air, with little business value or evidence associated to them.

Go through them with a fine tooth comb, bounce them around with other people and seek out evidence based insights.

Only then can you, and should you, challenge anything that doesn’t make sense.

Challenging these in the right way is often well received, especially so when backed by insights and data that leaders and managers didn’t have, or didn’t bring in to play initially.

Don’t simply challenge because you’re not happy with them, or they articulate difficult work ahead. If the business needs you to take on hard work – so be it, in fact, that should be welcomed.

Challenge calmly, with evidence and with neutrality.

Be effective first – then efficient

There is little point in being efficient at being ineffective.

Work on being effective at delivery first, then look for ways to make that more efficient.

You should challenge any objective, goal or target that is shrouded in efficiencies. These are fine if you’re effective. If not, challenge these and work on defining effectiveness first, then efficiency.

It’s not always possible to make things more efficient without changing the entire system. The efficiency gain (i.e 35% more efficient) is likely a number plucked out of thin air. You may not be able to meet that target due to red-tape and other management created blockers. You may also be able to blow that number out of the air – but the tendency is to stop when you reach the target.

Challenge and ask questions professionally.

Efficiency is not the goal of business unless effectiveness is achieved first.

Staple yourself to work

One of the best ways to be effective is to staple yourself (metaphorically, not physically) to pieces of work and track them through your process. Draw out the whole path these pieces of work follow. All of the hand-overs, re-work, wait times and people involved.

Visualise it on a wall or suitable tool. Find steps to remove, steps to add in and steps to improve. Then do the work.

Do this exercise with everyone involved – you’ll get better insights and more engagement to fix issues. Everybody doing the work will often know how to make it better.

This exercise alone can give you major insights in to where to improve your processes. Just remember to always put your customer and their experience at the heart of this activity. There is limited (to zero) value in improving things for yourselves, at the expense of the customer.

How to be liked

Develop amazing communication skills

Building rapport, being trustworthy and communicating calmly are the hallmarks of effective communicators. So too is the ability to control your body language and move closer to the style and preferences of the listener.

It’s hard to develop great communication skills, but when you start to master some of them, you’ll be able to build better relationship, challenge effectively and move people to action.

Develop these skills with my new online communication course

The one skill many miss when working on their communication skills is listening.

The ability to listen is an amazing skill; it’s how we learn, get to know others, and show others the utmost respect. It’s the greatest compliment you can give.

Work on yourself

To be liked you need to understand yourself. How you prefer to communicate, how you like to work, what you’re good at.

When we know what we’re good at, how we like to work and what brings us happiness (I’ve covered these in the Trinity of Career Development), we can start to understand why we may struggle to work with some people, or what gaps we have to fill in our teams.

We can then start to fill those gaps, minimise our weaknesses, accentuate our strengths and work better with a wider variety of people.

And when we do this we’ll be more effective, and liked. (well, let’s face it, there will always be people who don’t like us 🙂 )

Care about people

Get to know your peers and managers; know their strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to work closely with them.

Listen, take on board plenty of ideas, study and gain evidence.

Ultimately, respect people, treat them well and you will be liked, even if sometimes the work sucks.

When you approach the world of work with no care for other people – you’ll be disliked, alienate people and contribute to creating an environment that people don’t want to work in.

Care about people, and they will care about you, the customer and the business.

Works also a lot more fun when you care.

Until next time – take care Parent Brains.

Develop outstanding communication skills with my new online communication course