LAKE LAS VEGAS, NEV. — When sizing up people you first meet — whether it's a coworker, a boss or a blind date — what do you notice first, their warmth or their competence?
“We reach conclusions on the warmth dimension first,” said Jeffrey Anderson, president and CEO of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Most people want to be seen as competent, but he said that decades of research suggests genuine warmth carries more weight — things like friendliness and “likeability.”
Anderson outlined features of leadership and human relations in a talk at the Plastics News Executive Forum. He said warmth and competence make up 80 percent of the factors of how we form impressions of someone, and that applies to societies around the world.
He gave an example of research done by the Mayo Clinic that showed patients gauge their doctors by warmth before professional competence.
How does that play out in business? Anderson outlined more research that studied which type of colleague people would choose to work with: “competent jerks vs. lovable fools.”
“Almost unanimously, people said we're going to choose the competent jerk,” he said.
But in reality? The loveable fool wins.
“Personal feelings played a more important role in forming work relationships than is commonly acknowledged,” he said.
Anderson's advice: Smile more. Listen. Make personal connections. Stop multitasking and pay attention, adding that in an age of tweets, “hand-written notes have even more force today.”
He said the idea of an “elevator pitch” is a bad one. “When we're taught to perfect our pitch, we become less likable.”
And Anderson advises companies to focus on warmth when interviewing candidates, not just experience.
Before becoming the top official of Lake Forest Graduate School in Illinois, Anderson was an associate dean at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Earlier in his career, he spent 17 years in the commercial printing industry. He also co-founded a firm that gave strategic advice and coaching to executives.