Warmth or Competence?

7 September 2021

 

In her book, “Presence,” Amy Cuddy says that people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:

Can I trust this person?

Can I respect this person?

Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both.

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.

But in fact, warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you.

But while competence is highly valued, Cuddy says that it is evaluated only after trust is established. And focusing too much on displaying your strength can backfire.

New behavioral science with research showed that “When we judge others – especially our leaders – we look first at two characteristics: how lovable they are (their warmth, communion, or trustworthiness) and how fearsome they are (their strength, agency, or competence)

So how does that apply to Coaching?

In Executive Coaching for Senior Leaders, we have what we called “chemistry check” where Senior Leaders will be allowed to choose the Coach they are most comfortable with. From my personal experience, it doesn’t matter whether the Coach has 20 years of Coaching experience or has written 3 books or has been voted the Award winning Coach, it’s how he come across to the Senior Leaders when he introduced himself, the warmth or friendliness he displayed, how he demonstrate curiosity, empathy and compassion.

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt rightly pointed out “People do not care about how much you know until they know how much you care”

So how do you show care and warmth?

1. Ask about them rather than talk about you. Make them feel special and unique

2. Seek to understand then to be understood, a mantra one of my Coachees holds dear to & one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for Effective People

3. Listen as if he is the only person in the room

4. Be vulnerable and be not afraid to embarrass or laugh at yourself. It shows that you are a human being afer all.

5. Be humble. CS Lewis said “Humility is not about thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”

I will do better in my next chemistry check. While holding space for my confidence & competence, I’d have to show all the “care and warmth” behaviors as stated above.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

So the next time you go on stage, remember “before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you”

What do you think? Which comes first – Warmth or Competence? Think about the cavemen!

Credits: HBR article Connect, Then Lead by Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut & John Neffinger

Jeff Cheah, PCC

jeffmachoman@gmail.com

Jeff Cheah understands the challenges of managing & leading a group of people towards meeting targets & goals. It’s all about sharing the vision, communicating roles and responsibilities, create a people-oriented workplace culture and coaching people. He believes that every Leader possesses skills, talent, ideas, faults and flaws. The Leader…read more

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