Managers are responsible for ensuring their company remains profitable and clients remain happy. This requires many specific people skills that can easily be defined and measured. Still, the personal skills necessary for leaders to build relationships with clients and employees are often overlooked. Here we examine their importance, and identify a few skills every manager should develop.
Unfortunately, being in a position of power doesn’t automatically mean a leader has all the people skills necessary to keep employees and clients happy. The Peter Principle suggests that an employee will continue to advance through promotions only until he or she reaches a level at which they “can no longer excel.” Once you’re no longer considered “exceptional” in a position, you’ll remain stuck at that level. That means many bosses are promoted—and remain in those positions--without having developed important interpersonal skills.
An overabundance of bad bosses
Unqualified leaders are only half of the problem. For many workers, bosses that are hostile, rude, or insensitive are the real issue. Studies show that 65% of employees would rather have a new boss than a pay raise. Think about that for a moment: With very few exceptions, the promise of a paycheck is what motivates the average employee to perform, yet more than half of American workers would forgo additional pay in the unlikely chance a new boss would be better than a current one. Additionally, the stress caused by being forced to work under a bad boss is reported to cost American companies an estimated $360 billion in health care costs every year. Apparently, bad bosses are the rule rather than exception, and they’re hurting business around the country.
Thankfully, identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it. Business leaders need to be able to evaluate the managers and team leaders who work underneath them, and objectively assess their own interpersonal skills.
After all, business is built on interaction. Unless leaders can improve the soft skills that compliment hard ones, they could inadvertently sabotage their own business.
How do you avoid becoming a bad boss? Enlist these vital people skills:
Empathy allows us to work in cooperation for the mutual benefit of all involved and make personal sacrifices in order to be a part of something greater. It’s integral to the function of the modern corporate machine. Leaders who understand their customers and employees are better able to anticipate and correct potential issues before they grow into something that could jeopardize the relationship.
Empathy can be demonstrated by a willingness to show interest in others’ lives. Remembering names and hobbies, as well as details from previous conversations, is a simple way to show employees and customers they matter.
Some leaders believe simply delegating tasks to subordinates will get them done well. However, the ability to impart information is only one aspect of communication. Real communication involves speaking and listening, as well as reading body language and other nonverbal cues. In fact, when two people communicate, 55% of what is being interpreted is coming from facial expressions and body language, 37% comes from tone and voice, and only 8% has to do with the actual words being spoken. Communication also involves learning how to logically and calmly argue a point.
It’s critical to understand enough about who you are communicating with to be able share complex meanings clearly, quickly, and professionally. Studies have found that 85% of an employee’s financial success is due to their personality and ability to communicate effectively. The bad news is that not everyone has a grasp on these traits.
The good news is that everyone can learn them. Internal communication workshops can help provide the foundation that managers (and employees) need in order become effective communicators in the workplace and with customers.
3. Conflict resolution
Before products can ship or B2B lead generation can begin, the people working behind the scenes need to be able to set aside their differences and work together. Workplace conflict costs U.S. companies approximately $359 billion every year in lost earnings. Managers need to fill the role of peacemaker when their employees come into conflict with one another. This means identifying and clarifying the issues being argued, organizing the discussion so that all parties are given a chance to present their case, and then negotiating mutually beneficial compromises. And, in the event that one side is obviously in the wrong, the manager needs to have the conviction to be able to correct that side.
The only way employees will be willing to come to you with their conflicts and other issues is if they trust you. Trust, much like communication, is a two-way street. Leaders should not only inspire trust in their team members through their actions and reputation, but also cultivate a trust for those who work underneath them.
Without trust in subordinates, managers will find themselves constantly inserting themselves into processes that don’t involve them to make sure everything is being done correctly. This is an inefficient use of time, and also has a negative impact on employee engagement. Hire good employees, and then give them the opportunity to prove their worthiness. You may be surprised at how often people rise to meet your expectations. And, if there are employees who prove that they cannot be trusted, it’s better for all involved if you can identify and remove these employees sooner, rather than later.
Keeping your business together in the face of natural chaos is a stressful job. That being said, one of the most important skills you should develop is also one that requires the least direct action on your part: patience. The ability to take in the chaos take a deep breath, and find your center will end up being worth more than any anxiety-induced panic attack. And, when handling people — employees or customers — your patience will go a long way towards cultivating that trust mentioned beforehand.
Determination. Steadfastness. Self-assurance. These are all useful traits to have in the business world... except when you’re wrong. The problem is that it’s not always easy to know when you’re right. The simple solution is to always keep an open mind. If your course of action is one in which you have complete faith, it will be able to stand up to honest scrutiny. And, if it doesn’t, then you and your business will be better off if you’re willing to consider another approach. Additionally, an open-minded leader is one that employees and customers will be more willing to share their concerns with.
Having a sense of humor doesn’t mean telling jokes, doing impressions, or playing pranks. Having a sense of humor simply means that when trouble arises, you’re able to take it in stride and not let it negatively affect your overall attitude. That doesn’t mean that jokes, impressions or pranks are off the table. Use your sense of humor to build rapport with your employees and clients.
Becoming a better communicator, listener and manager takes some effort. You have to be willing to learn and fail every so often before you get it right. Being open to the process is half the battle. Over time, your efforts at being a better manager will pay off.