WARMTH

Posted on February 19, 2021 · Posted in Blog

In real life, “high warmth” is ultimately a matter of perception. To some, the concept of actively managing warmth might rouse their inner skeptic. Who wants to be that hapless colleague who tries just a little too hard to ingratiate himself to others?

There is, however, one simple fact that leaders ignore at their peril: those who demonstrate high levels of “interpersonal warmth” have a better chance at long-term success. Warmth is the differentiating factor. A

study that looked at 50,000 managers and found that a leader’s overall effectiveness is predicted more by warmth than competence. If you are seen as low-warmth, you have something like a 1-in-2000 chance to make the top quartile of effectiveness as a leader.

The lesson for aspiring business leaders is not to smile more broadly. Instead, simply be aware of one’s perceived warmth and take steps to manage that perception whenever possible.

It is true that incompetent people sometimes try to compensate by being extremely warm. Any athlete who is just barely making the team has to be a good clubhouse guy – otherwise he has got nothing. But there is no reason why warmth should only be a means of compensating.

Others are put off by what they see as endless networking. People are not accustomed to thinking about social interaction through a strategic lens. They worry about being manipulative or inauthentic – or both. But when you are thinking about how to build relationships around warmth, you want to make sure that those actions are genuine.

Cultivating warmth is about being purposeful, setting aside the time, and thinking carefully about how to build relationships with people, rather than simply trusting that your natural warmth will win them over.

The way to get comfortable with building relationships strategically is to think of it as an obligation rather than self-promotion. If you see your role as one that requires building positive relationships, then this is something that makes sense to devote your energy to.

Given how crucial a reputation for warmth can be for one’s career, what should leaders keep in mind as they cultivate warmth? Expressing warmth only occasionally or haphazardly can have negative effects. Choose the wrong moment and you may do more harm than good for your reputation.

Often, we sacrifice one dimension for the sake of the other. For example, highlighting your achievements may help to establish your competence, but it may not do much to improve your warmth. On the other hand, certain “warm” gestures – such as offering to take notes in a meeting – can sometimes convey submissiveness or passivity, which may not be ideal. You want to perform nice gestures but you do not want to put yourself at a disadvantage.

Other moments offer better opportunities. Choosing to lead at a difficult moment, taking risks to help people out when they are in trouble – these kinds of actions build reciprocity and help to convey warmth.

It is also important to remember that warmth is highly context dependent. It means different things across different organizations and cultures. So, part of the challenge is understanding how to convey warmth respectfully wherever you go.

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