You may be an IIM or even a Harvard graduate but if you lack interpersonal skills, you sure are going to land in the hall of infamous managers. Here are a few lessons that your B school might have skipped…
Although this is a beaten out of shape word, for the purpose Of this article let us define interpersonal skills again…. Interpersonal Skills, in other words called ‘people skills’ is the skill that we put to use when we interact or deal with others. It also includes being able to support and encourage others while dealing with them.
As a Manager, in whatever discipline one belongs to, one has no choice other than dealing with people – those who report into him, those to whom he reports into, peers, vendors, customers, and the list goes on and on.
Now let me ask you a question?
At a conscious level, is there anyone who needs to remind you that for you to become a successful manager, you need to be interpersonally effective?
Given the premise that we all love to improve our interpersonal skills, let me not teach you anything that you already know. Instead let me tell you some of the reasons as to why we are not as interpersonally effective as we would like to be.
In my experience of being a manager for over 15 years and in my current role as a Consultant and Coach for over 8 years, let me give you my perspective…
Think of those month ends… Two more days to go and you have a lot to catch up with on numbers. While you very well know that you are behind your targets, here comes a reminder from your boss, on the hour, every hour, on how far you are on your monthly numbers. Unfortunately, one of your team members who has been a consistent performer, who is not up to the mark this month, comes up to share his thoughts, how would you deal with him? While it is unfortunate, it is a simple truth that some managers treat their team members as one more ‘resource’ like a computer or a photocopier in their office to get ‘output’.
I don’t like these guys!
As humans we cannot avoid having perceptions about people! We make perceptions almost instantaneously as we meet people. Unfortunately, this includes some of our team members. While we cannot say why, we simply don’t like some of our team members and either consciously or unconsciously treats them the way we perceive them to be.
Inability to resolve conflicts
While conflicts are unavoidable, we sometimes do not know as to how we can resolve them. Think of this situation… Two of your star performers who consistently contribute nearly 45% of your monthly target are in an argument in a team meeting. It is the month end and how do you plan to handle this situation?
Why do I need to be interpersonally effective?
Although this might sound strange, I have come across a few instances when I have had managers seriously asking me this question. Logic! As long as I am able to effectively complete my job and achieve the targets, why do I need to build relationships?
I am an introvert!
Sometimes you would wonder how these guys grew to a manager’s position. They don’t like to interact with others and are proud to proclaim that they are introverts.
Some managers are inherently negative and even when they are not asked, will jump with something like this, “Let me tell you why this won’t work…” While in the first instance they may sound as someone who is helpful, thoughtful, etc., over time team members will realise the true colour of the manager. The irony is that the manager himself will never realise that his team members never come up to him for suggestions.
Inability to give constructive feedback
As a manager, we are supposed to give feedback to our team members on their performance. For many of us, feedback means telling something negative about the team member’s performance. While you still would like to tolerate this, excusing him on his lack of understanding of the word ‘feedback’, they are either given belatedly or it is too generic which directly affects the self-respect of the team member.
Failing to recognise
Many managers take their team members for granted. “He anyway was supposed to do this,” is a usual comment that you will hear from them. While we all know that need for recognition is what differentiates us from animals, we many times fail to give it to our team members because we are either currently or in the past deprived of it.
No guts to say “sorry”
Think of this situation. You are supposed to join one of your team members for an important meeting. While he has been waiting for the last 10 minutes, you just got over with the previous meeting with your senior management. Now you are meeting your team member who is waiting for you. Would you 10 out of 10 occasions, when it occurs like this, genuinely apologise to your team member for having made him wait for you? We either take our team member for granted or have got such XXL size ego that prevents us from saying a simple “sorry”.
Over time, because of our success story, we have either consciously or unconsciously developed some habits, behaviours, traits, etc. One fine morning, we wake up and start saying, “This is me”. On the pretext of being candid, we sometimes give such comments to our team members that even those who used to voluntarily seek feedback, quit coming to us because of our ‘Mr. Original’ status.
Inability to Listen
Some managers tend to think that they have been promoted to give sermons. I was witness to a team meeting of one of my clients, who had called for a meeting to seek inputs on how the team was going to implement the new process from the following week. While the meeting went on for over an hour, as you guessed it right, he spoke for over 45 minutes. While many of us think listening is a skill, here is my definition, “Listening is 95% attitude and 5% skill”. I have heard many managers tell me that they would like to express their ideas before their team members because they think they will otherwise lose their importance.
While I can go on and on, let me share with you some simple tips on how we can enhance our interpersonal skills.
Ability to know who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, inhibitions, reaction to routine situations, etc. is the first step to enhance our interpersonal skills. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can relate with others (team members).
Putting ourselves in the situation of others and thinking about how we would respond/react to the situation is also an important aspect.
Consciously give credit
Get conscious about giving credit to team members even on small things. Be genuine in doing so.
Remain consciously ‘unbiased’
Everyone in your team is there to win! None of them would like to fail in their life. Give them a chance; look at them with a fresh pair of eyes.
Finally, remember, “People do not like people who disagree with them”. While you do not want to totally agree to their suggestions, as you have your own limitations, agree to their views.