Managing Yourself – Step 6: Developing Charm

This GovLoop series on “Managing Yourself” provides readers with the right skills, tools and mindset to be proactive about their development and as a way to thrive and succeed, both professionally and personally. Thus far, we’ve covered “Knowing Thyself,” “Goal Setting,” “Time Management,” “Executive Presence,” and “Effective Networking.” Our post this week is the next step in your roadmap for success: developing charm.

What Is Charm?

Charm is one of those personal qualities that is often misunderstood. It gets associated with flirtatious behavior or worse – sucking up! While this can be true, it’s not the whole story. And not paying attention to your own charm could impede your life and professional advantage.

Merriam Webster defines charm as: “the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration.” In essence, then, it’s the ability to make people feel good and get them to like you.

Charm is similar to charisma – a topic we touched on in our post on Executive Presence (EP). But it’s not the same thing. Charm is a component of EP and is about simple interpersonal interaction. Executive Presence, on the other hand, is more about your professional demeanor.

Why Charm is Important

Quite simply, people do business with people they like. If you want to be successful in sales, lead a diverse team, or win an important negotiation, you need to be able to work with people. Perhaps the best reason for developing charm is that with all else being equal, it can give you the competitive edge. What does that mean?

In an insightful podcast on charm, author and blogger, Brett McKay, interviews Jordan Harbinger (purveyor of  “The Art of Charm”) about why developing charm is important. In his answer, he gives an example from his own life.

Jordan’s Story:

Jordan’s a smart guy. While he was young, he could excel simply by relying on his own innate smarts. As he grew older, though, and moved up the academic and professional ladder, the pool of people around him began to shrink. The pool also became smarter! Jordan countered with his own intellect coupled with his willingness to outwork everyone else. This worked for a while. Eventually, he ended up as a financial lawyer on Wall Street. There, he found himself surrounded by very smart people all willing to outwork him!

So he had to look for something that could set him apart. What he discovered was the age-old truth that approximately 15 percent of our success is the result of our technical knowledge. The other 85 percent, then, is from our ability to work with others. Jordan discovered the power of charm.

Developing Your Charm

It’s true, some people simply have a gift. Charm and the ability to get people to like them just come easy – it’s their strength. But, like with anything in this series, charm is still a learnable thing!

There are a plethora of resources available to assist in developing charm. But the simplest, and arguably most effective technique, is to adopt the principles Dale Carnegie outlined in his 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” If don’t have the time to read it currently, the excerpt below is from Part 2: 6 Ways to Make People Like You.

Dale’s Principles to Get Us Started:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people. Surprise, people are mostly interested in themselves! Understanding this principle will “win you more friends in two months than you could win in two years by trying to get other people to be interested in you.”
  2. Smile. This principle ties into Executive Presence and the importance of appearance and first impressions. “The expression on one’s face is far more important than the clothes on one’s back.”
  3. Remember people’s names and use them in conversation. “A person’s name is to them the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
  4. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. “To be interesting, be interested.”
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. To be of interest to someone else you need to captivate them. What better way to hold their attention than to talk about their interests?
  6. Make the other person feel important. “Talk to people about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”

Note: it’s important to use these principles sincerely or it just comes off as superficial flattery, which will work against you. Be sincere!

Wrapping it All Up

Charm is an essential component of anyone’s personal and professional development. This is true even if you’re the smartest or most technically competent person in the room (remember the 15-85 truth). Failing to develop your charm will risk you losing your competitive edge as you move into the upper echelons of your organization – where everyone becomes just as smart and just as willing to outwork you!

Next Week – Step 7: Diversify Through Extracurricular Activities

Brian Baskerville is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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