Did you know that a recent survey of recruiters ranked interpersonal skills as more important than any other workplace skill? On top of that, more than half of recruiters (57%) say that they expect the demand for interpersonal skills to grow over the next five years. Effective interpersonal skills are the key to becoming an effective leader.
Why are interpersonal skills suddenly at the top of every organization’s wish list? What interpersonal skills have the biggest impact on individual careers and organizational growth? What harm can poor communication skills do? How can aspiring leaders develop and improve the interpersonal skills they need to succeed?
Effective leaders are in high demand because there’s a short supply. Aspiring leaders can pave their own path by investing the time and effort to cultivate the strong interpersonal skills that employers need. No matter what industry you work in, the ability to communicate, inspire, lead, and manage is the key that will unlock the door to greater opportunity and influence.
What Are the Most Essential Interpersonal Skills?
Interpersonal skills getting the attention and appreciation they deserve is a fairly recent phenomenon. The difference it is making for organizations that seize the opportunity suggests that it will be anything but a passing fad.
There’s a downside to the newness of this appreciation. Organizations are scrambling to get ahead of the curve. They rush to find candidates with interpersonal skills and to develop them in their emerging leaders as they promote from within. At the same time, workers looking for career advancement have to learn how to develop, demonstrate, and promote their interpersonal skills.
What’s the upside?
When you know how important interpersonal skills are and why—you’re already ahead of the game. When you assess your skills, promote your strengths, and make plans to improve where needed, you’re plotting your own course. It all starts with knowing which interpersonal skills have the biggest impact on your own career and on the teams that you lead.
Communication skills are the most fundamental interpersonal skills. The ability to make yourself heard and understood is essential to everything that you’ll do in a management role.
Being “heard” might sound simple, but when you think about all of the ways communication happens and all of the people you need to communicate to, it can get tricky. Being “understood” is never guaranteed, but effective communicators know how to tip the scales in their favor.
Verbal and Non-Verbal
In a face-to-face setting, leaders have to balance effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills. What’s more, they maintain that balance while both pursuing their goals for the interaction and staying responsive to other parties. This happens every day across conversations, meetings, and presentations.
Modern business asks leaders to communicate effectively through phone calls, emails, and video conferences too. Whether we’re talking about written or spoken communication, regardless of whether it’s in person or through other channels, the same key building blocks make the biggest difference. Clarity, brevity, and relevance are the tools leaders use to reach the people they lead.
When we talk about “communication skills” as the process of being heard and understood, we focus all of the attention on one side of an interactive process. That’s why it’s important to recognize “listening skills” as equally essential. “Hearing” and “understanding” are just as important to effective communication as being heard and understood.
The most effective listeners know that there’s a big difference between “hearing” and “listening”. Just because you hear what somebody says, there’s still work to do to get to understanding. That’s why “active listening” has become an important part of the interpersonal skill set.
Active listening is listening to understand. You aren’t just waiting for your turn to talk. You’re processing what they have to say and factoring it into your responses. When your team recognizes that you are actively listening, they’ll know you value their contributions. When peers, colleagues, and superiors speak, active listening helps you find the “right” thing to say in response.
Active listeners do a better job of keeping everyone engaged. They create cultures of collaboration that lead to better team performance. They ask clarifying questions and identify important insights. It takes more effort to listen actively, but the rewards make it more than worth it.
The key to developing higher emotional intelligence is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s emotions, ideas, and behavior. Empathetic leaders show a genuine interest in their team members’ lives and sincere concern for their well-being.
As a leader, you can’t always find a way to keep everyone happy. Leaders with high emotional intelligence use their empathy to understand how their decisions will impact their teams. Instead of being oblivious to the fact that you’re asking a lot of your team or ignoring it because you had no choice, you can choose to acknowledge their feelings and show appreciation.
Compassion and empathy are the twin “soft skills” that good leaders rely on to lead with emotional intelligence. As leaderships skills go, empathy might be more important than any technical skills or a particular skill like financial management.
When empathy is combined with the ability to listen carefully and good communication, effective leadership has the opportunity to blossom and bear fruit.
When we talk about leadership as an interpersonal skill, we’re usually talking about someone’s ability to achieve influence, reach consensus through negotiation, and inspire others. It is one of the most important interpersonal skills in the workplace. While a promotion can give you a team, only leadership will encourage them to follow.
Leaders know how to influence without using their authority. They use other interpersonal leadership skills like listening, communication, and empathy to inspire others. Managers who cannot to influence others often see their teams suffer from low morale, lack of engagement, and increased turnover.
Effective negotiators know that a zero-sum game is bad for business. Why pursue a solution where there are winners and losers when you can set your sights on a win-win outcome. Finding ways for other parties in a negotiation to win too is the key to building strong, long-term relationships with partners of all sorts.
Leadership doesn’t come from a title. It comes from an attitude. Having a positive attitude, showing positivity, and helping others look on the bright side leads to more positive outcomes. Anyone can motivate, collaborate, and celebrate team wins. That’s what leaders do.
There are many sources of workplace conflict. It could be a disagreement about responsibilities, different ideas about how to get things done, or something as simple as different personalities. There will always be workplace conflict. But workplace conflict doesn’t have to be a negative.
Good interpersonal skills affect personal relationships. Leaders with strong interpersonal skills tend to interact with others in ways that promote creative problem-solving. Conflict management helps to build relationships. Coworkers building trust multiply their own strengths by the strengths of every other team member.
It takes assertiveness, empathy, and mediation to turn conflict from a disruption to a strength. It takes self-confidence and strong negotiation skills to interact with others in ways that lead to conflict resolution.
Leaders with people skills build teams with strong personal relationships and high employee engagement.
How to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
All of this attention on interpersonal skills is good news for job seekers who have strong interpersonal skills. But it’s not necessarily bad news for their coworkers who need to improve interpersonal skills to be ready for their next job role.
There are many ways to develop and improve interpersonal skills. The first step is to assess your strengths and identify areas where you need to improve. Once you know what you need to do, you can make a plan that will get you there. That plan can include things like constructive criticism, mentorship, or even workshops and classes.
Feedback and Constructive Criticism
If you want to improve your interpersonal skills, you need to interact with others. It’s important to cast a wide net when you ask for feedback on your interpersonal skills. Don’t be satisfied with input from your supervisors. Ask for candid comments from your peers, colleagues, and direct reports as well.
Of course, getting feedback isn’t enough to improve your interpersonal skills on its own. You need to listen to the feedback and understand what others are telling you. You need to make a plan to address the areas that they bring to your attention. You need to follow up to get their thoughts on your progress.
Find Role Models
Mentors are an important part of leadership development. A mentor who can help you develop good interpersonal skills or strong communication skills is among your most important personal relationships. Observing the nonverbal cues of someone who successfully communicates non-verbally will help you understand poor communication and improve your own non-verbal communication.
Sometimes the most important thing you can do to improve an important skill is to simply make it a priority. When you make a point of working on interpersonal skills on a day-to-day basis, you’re making a commitment to getting better.
Taking a few moments a few times each day to think about interpersonal skills is a way to keep it at the forefront of your thoughts.
Accountability and Practice
Sometimes it takes a partner or partners to help you make breakthroughs on a challenging project. Improving your interpersonal skills can be a challenging project. So, why not enlist the help of people who want to see you succeed.
Partners can help in many ways. They can agree to observe your interpersonal skills and give you notes on what they see. They can work with you in practice settings to help you think through and work out better approaches to situations that you find challenging. In most cases, these partnerships will be informal. So, you can make them be whatever you need them to be.
Workshops, Classes, and Groups
There is a group for almost everything on the internet or social media these days. They can be a great way to find others who have similar goals. That can be a great way to start conversations that lead to progress.
At the same time, when your career or your organization’s success is on the line, it might be a good idea to look to professionals for assistance. There are many online and in-person training resources that aspiring leaders can take advantage of to help them develop the essential skills they need to become more effective.
The Modern Management Program Can Help You Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
Modern Management from Express Pros Training has developed a 3-tiered system to help you build all of the skills you need to succeed. We’ve assembled resources to help you cultivate the right mindset, study the essential methods, and master management.
If you’re ready to make improving your interpersonal skills a priority, you should consider the Interpersonal Skills program from the Methods Tier.
It’s a great way to use professional development support from your employer. It’s a great way for job seekers to set themselves apart from the competition. We can even accommodate larger groups by coming to your location when it fits your schedule.
There’s no better time than now to get started on a project that will solve the challenges of today and prevent problems in the future.