strategic communicator - Author - Facilitator - Workshop Presenter - Ghostwriter

Tag: perseverance

Is Your Need to Be Liked Destroying Your Effectiveness as a Manager?

In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, each of us has an innate desire to belong and to be loved. Once that need is met, an individual can move along their respective path to self-actualization.

While the desire to be loved is natural, managers desperate for their team’s approval will compromise their effectiveness and inflict harm on their teams. Perhaps, you can understand why; a manager who is driven by a need to be liked may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting the apple cart may tolerate behavior that is harmful to the work environment and culture.

In his April 7, 2014 Harvard Business Review article, “The Problem with Being Too Nice,” Michael Fertik said “Few people want to be the bad guy. But leaders are also expected to make the tough decisions that serve the company or the team’s best interests. Being too nice can be lazy, inefficient, irresponsible, and harmful to individuals and the organization.”

For these reasons, leadership can be a solitary experience. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive, he earned many enemies as he was challenging the status quo and insisting on civil rights for African Americans. We lavish praise on him now, but were he dependent on the approval of others, he would not have championed racial and economic justice.

Leadership requires a willingness to do what one believes is right, even when “right” is unpopular. It also requires a willingness to make decisions independent of the approval of others.

A painful lesson from my own career underscores this point. I was leading a team of 8 communicators. I’d hired most of them personally and was extremely proud of what they each brought to the table; they were smart, outspoken, hardworking and cutting edge. To this day, they remain the team that leaves me beaming with pride. I desperately wanted to honor their accomplishments with bonuses and financial perks. I’d requested that two members of my team receive a pay increase; they were underpaid in my estimation and I knew we would pay more to replace them – there was no way we would get their level of talent, passion for the job, and experience in another candidate. I lobbied hard for pay increases for these two staffers and thought I was successful. Before the process was complete, I notified these staff members, and the rest of the team, that they would receive a pay increase. Imagine my horror when weeks later, I learned that while my own bosses were sympathetic to my request, they denied the increases. I was certain my immediate supervisor approved the increases but was somehow mistaken.

This process was riddled with mistakes; my mistakes. Rather than waiting until the review process was complete, I prematurely announced pay raises. I wanted to be celebrated by my team and I wanted them to know that I fought for them. My desire to be liked overshadowed common sense. I ultimately had to go back to the entire team, apologize profusely and notify them that there would be no pay increases for anyone. “Anger” does not begin to describe my team’s reaction. Days later, they ran an action on me and filed into my office, one by one, to explain how disappointed, hurt and angry they were. In that instance, I chose to listen, acknowledge my mistakes and work to regain their trust. As a leader, this was one of the lowest points in my career. By humbling myself, acknowledging my error and vowing to continue fighting to reward the team with pay increases, we somehow recovered. While the experience is long gone, this lesson is fresh.

Perhaps your approval-seeking behavior wasn’t in the same form as mine. But if you are driven by the affirmation of others, you will never be free to be your authentic, powerful self. I am increasingly asking the question, and encouraging clients to ask this as well, ‘How does what I am about to do or say, serve my team?’ This will enable you to power through difficult conversations or to withhold information that is unhelpful. This Psychology Today article includes helpful tips on overcoming the dependence of external validators, including identifying the advantages and disadvantages of seeking approval, identifying the underlying thoughts that drive one to seek external approval and examining the evidence and logic of one’s thoughts.

The need to be liked can drive managers to do quite foolish things. I am a witness.


Jennifer R. Farmer, aka The PR Whisperer, is an author, lecturer, public relations professional and strategic communicator for organizations, leaders and celebrities committed to social and racial justice. Follow her on IG/Twitter using @pr_whisperer.


How to Relentlessly Advocate for What You Believe In

There’s no escaping the fact that communications and public relations work involves an element of rejection. In PR, the rejection likely comes from reporters who may not be interested or available to cover a story idea you’ve pitched. Rejection also occurs when the strategy you’ve proposed to meet an organizational challenge is overlooked or summarily dismissed.

I’ve been a communicator for more than 15 years, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “no” from organizational leaders and members of the media alike. Bo Bennett’s quote, “rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success” rings true.

For all the stories I’ve pitched and placed, countless others didn’t see the light of day. For all of the meetings I’ve requested with members of the media, many were flat out denied, and in some cases, I didn’t get a response at all.

Dealing with rejection is hard. But overcoming rejection and being resilient is critical to being an effective advocate. I focus on relentlessness in my new book, “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide,” and here are five things I’ve learned that may help you relentlessly advocate for the organizations and causes you support:

  • Believe in Something Bigger Than Yourself. From my experience, the key to being relentless is believing in something bigger than yourself. When we believe in something bigger than ourselves, we are likely to stick with it. We’re passionate when we talk about it, and that passion is contagious. When we believe in something, we’ll go to the ends of the earth fighting for it. In my book, “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget,” I talk about being on a campaign with the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and how I believed so strongly in the campaign that I traveled to North Carolina almost weekly to support it. From my first encounter in with the campaign and the people supporting it, I determined I would do whatever was necessary to support the movement.

What I learned from this experience is that you cannot effectively promote something you do not actually embrace. If you believe in something, you’ll stick with it even when the going gets tough.

  • Know that There’s Always a Silver Lining. Sometimes “No!” comes with a silver lining. A “no” with an explanation may be viewed just as favorably as an immediate “yes, I’ll cover your story.” For instance, I asked a member of my team to pitchThe Washington Post on a guest column about the systemic oppression of Native Americans. The Washington Post declined to publish the piece. When we politely inquired as to the basis for the decision, we learned that the essay was submitted too close to the desired publication date. We had submitted the piece for consideration on the Tuesday before the Sunday we had hoped the column would run, which was also opening day of the 2014 professional football season. The feedback from the publication allowed us to better establish internal deadlines to place opinion pieces going forward.

Relentlessness is about patience and persistence. Had we not pressed for an answer, we may not have known The Post’s desired lead time for nonurgent opinion pieces. Had we stopped at the first, second or third “no” – we had pitched the piece to The National Journal, Politico and The Washington Post before agreed to run it – our piece would never have been placed. Failing to place an opinion piece is losing an opportunity to share your message.

  • Remember, “No!” Isn’t Always Permanent. Just because a reporter or producer doesn’t bite on a story idea today doesn’t mean the idea is permanently doomed. He or she could be sidelined covering breaking news, on work or personal travel, or juggling multiple stories. There’s also a possibility the reporter didn’t see your pitch or press release if you sent it electronically and didn’t follow up with a call. The bottom line is that there are a lot of factors that could cause a reporter to decline your pitch, but that doesn’t mean he or she won’t be willing to consider your source, angle or material in the future.
  • Don’t Allow “No” to Ruin a Relationship. Journalists aren’t obligated to cover your issues. While getting reporters and producers to cover your work is key, it’s not worth losing a relationship over. So, don’t come unglued if you don’t receive the response you were hoping for. Practically speaking, journalists often move from beat to beat and from media outlet to media outlet. You’d feel bad to have ruined a relationship with a member of the media only to have to pitch to that person again if he or she moved to a different beat or media outlet.
  • Know When to Back Off. If a reporter hasn’t responded to multiple emails or a couple of phone calls, you can safely assume he or she is not interested in covering your story. After multiple attempts to reach a reporter by email and phone, don’t continue to press for a response. The reporter’s continued silence is all the response you need. Similarly, if you receive an unequivocal, “No, I am not interested in covering this story ever” response, move on.

Ultimately, relentlessness is about seeing denial as a temporary, rather than permanent, fixture. It’s about viewing denial as an opportunity to tweak and refine, especially if you are lucky enough to receive feedback. It’s not, however, about pestering reporters or others into submission. Used effectively, the principle can lead to impressive results. To learn more, pick up a copy of my new book “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget (Berrett-Koehler Publishers).”


Jennifer R. Farmer is managing director for communications for PICO National Network and the founder of Spotlight PR LLC, whose mission is to develop and distribute high-impact communications trainings and workshops. Follow her on Facebook at and Twitter @Farmer8J.