How to Succeed with People without Trying Too Much

A Leader’s Perspective

Intrigued? Sound a bit counter-intuitive? Because we want to be liked or successful, sometimes we just try too hard with people. And trying usually shows up in selling oneself, which is the opposite of how to succeed with people. There’s a better approach to connect with people and achieve more success in leading them.

Most people focus on making a good first impression, and yes, first impressions pertaining to appearance, body language, and facial expressions are important. However, first impressions extend into those first few words spoken. If you’re like many, when you initially meet someone, especially someone important, you might start talking about yourself, a project, or chat about the safe topics like the weather. Instead, focus on the other person. Be a study of other people and help them FEEL accepted and valued: understood, needed, and affirmed for who they are. When you turn the focus on others, and genuinely engage to talk about themselves, you win a friend, ally, or colleague.

You may not feel skilled at this point in making people the center of attention. I wouldn’t expect you to be if you haven’t practiced it. I only wish these relationship skills were taught in high school or college. If so, we’d all be more prepared when we stepped into the real world. At first, you will likely have to be intentional in how you connect, but don’t worry, with practice, it will become second nature.

Some concepts you need to keep in mind:

  1. People can spot fake. Understand who you are, and if you’re not happy with how you show up, develop and take action in changing your attitudes and behaviors. Always operate within your authentic self.
  2. Build trust across all your relationships. Trust is both the foundation and mortar in every relationship. Trust starts with you, and if it’s an area you’d like to learn how to deepen it, reach out for a conversation. It’s an essential element worth exploring if you need help.
  3. Engage people beyond the surface conversation. People love to talk about themselves, so ask lots of good open-ended questions that stimulate thought, make people laugh, or put people more at ease.
  4. Ask people for advice. People love to be asked what they think and believe as long as they know their response will land on non-judgmental ears.
  5. Find common ground. What do you share in common? You might be interested what you learn when you ask meaningful open-ended questions.
  6. Identify people’s strengths, then find opportunities to leverage those strengths as well as promote them.  

Overall, people are complex, because they are a mixture of core values, personality preference, motivations, and external pressures. However, as human beings we all share the deep desire to FEEL loved and accepted for who we are despite being a work in progress. We acknowledge that not everyone has to like us, but we want to FEEL valued.

When you interact with others, how do you make them FEEL? If you’re a leader, inspiring people is less about logic and more about how you make people FEEL. If you’d like to explore specific situations or relationships, or need a tune-up, schedule a coaching session. I can help.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership, sales, and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at or by visiting her website at

The Power of Cognitive Diversity to Solve Problems

cognitive diversity

Inclusion & Diversity is a hot topic in today’s business environment that holds the underlying belief that diversity will result in better decisions and outcome. The inherent thinking is that diversity, as embraced in the components of age, gender, and ethnicity, will provide different perspectives, points of view, and approaches that will enhance a company’s ability to solve problems and grow. The concept sounds logical, but surprisingly, research doesn’t support that differences in age, gender, and ethnicity, by itself, contribute to higher team performance. Reynolds and Lewis (2017) found that demographic diversity had no correlation with team performance.

The research found that the highest performing teams had diversity in perspectives and methods of processing information when working with new, uncertain, and complex problems (Reynolds & Lewis, 2017). Referred to as Cognitive Diversity, what the best performing teams had in common were the: (1) ability to leverage existing and generate new knowledge and (2) preference to use their own expertise and put into effect the know-how and ideas of others.

There’s a high positive correlation of cognitive diversity with performance, which is independent of education, culture, and other social conditioning (Reynolds & Lewis, 2017). A person’s cognitive approach is an internal trait that’s hard to identify in the hiring process, so companies typically focus on other attributes. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to bring others aboard who think and express themselves the same way as they do. It’s also not uncommon for those who think and reason differently than the prevailing culture to suppress their different ways of looking at things in order to fit in and be part of the team.

Successful companies encourage cognitive diversity by making it safe for their employees to express their natural cognitive tendencies and authentic selves. With authenticity and leadership as two of my top five core values, I truly believe that servant leaders lead with authenticity and help others lead with theirs as well.


Reynolds, A., Lewis, D. (2017). Team Solves Problems Faster When They’re More Cognitively Diverse. Harvard Business Review

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She administers DISC® and Myers-Briggs/MBTI® testing, designs and facilitates workshops, and coaches both individuals and teams. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at or by visiting her website at