How to Improve your Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal Skills

There has been many discussions about a coming shortage of qualified who can effectively carry out the vision of the organization in the midst of crisis.  The problem is not a shortage of leaders who do not have the technical skills; but a shortage of leaders that have interpersonal skills.

Research shows that developing interpersonal skills is essential to improving a company’s bottom line.  A survey conducted by DDI revealed that HR executives believe a lack of interpersonal skills is the No. 1 reason for leadership failure. Here are some ways to improve your skills: 

What are interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are how you effectively relate to others.  Interpersonal skills include verbal/non-verbal communication, listening skills, assertiveness, behavior, negotiation, conflict resolution, and influence.  Interpersonal skills help shape your personal image.  These are skills that we’ve used since childhood and can improve.

Improve Your Skills

Interpersonal skills can be improved by becoming more aware of how we communicate with others and then putting those skills to use.  Here are a few ways that you can start now to improve:

  • Be authentic.   Be honest with who you are, know what you stand for and do not compromise your core values.  Many people try to fit their idea of what a leader should be.   For example, for years, qualities such as cooperation, collaboration and mentoring (usually considered female traits) were not considered important qualities to use as a senior leader.  Many leaders whose personalities fit these traits tried to hide their personalities so they can move up the corporate ladder; however, it backfired as their co-workers perceived them negatively. Now, research has proven that these “female traits” are essential leadership skills. Trying to be someone you’re not is living in fear.  Embrace your differences – That’s what makes you shine.
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  • Become an active listener.  Active listening is the ability to be able to understand what is being communicated.  This means that you must concentrate on the speaker. It is difficult to listen and perform other tasks at the same time, so you must make the time to focus on the speaker. A frequent argument I hear is that the daily demands of the job call for the leader to multi-task.However, these leaders fail to note that they are not only sending the message that their staff is unimportant, but they are more likely to miss important details and make errors in judgment; ultimately affecting the organization’s bottom line.  Make the time to ensure that you hear and understand what is being said.  Practice active listening the next time you have a conversation.  Put down the cell phone, close the laptop, put down the tablet.  Use eye contact and focus on the speaker.  Acknowledge you understand what the speaker has said by re-iterating what was said and ask questions (if relevant).   You’ll find that you are more productive and have greater clarity.
  • Be Approachable.   Building relationships with co-workers is important in gaining trust. Before that can happen, you must be perceived as approachable. If your employees view you as accessible, they are likely to come to you when it’s necessary instead of avoiding you to to discuss problems that need your attention. When you are approachable, it shows that you are open to others’ ideas/suggestions and are not judgmental.  Ways to be approachable include active listening, asking leading questions, and adjusting your speaking style to their resemble the other person.
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  • .Motivate your organization to High Performance.   Inspire your team to perform at a higher level by consistently demonstrating higher standards through your words and actions. Create an environment that allow employees to solve their own problems and look for ways to improve.   This will build confidence in your team and show that you believe in them.  Explain why your goals/vision is important and how their role is important to achieving the vision. 
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  • Communicate with words reflective of leadership.  Refrain from using words that suggest incompetence, blaming others or mediocrity.   Avoid making excuses (I did not have enough time), negative talk (we’re in trouble) and being a victim (It’s not my fault).  Instead, communicate your commitment to move the organization toward progress by clearly expressing your vision.  Encourage teamwork and collaboration by changing your words from “I” to “we”.

These are a few tips to improve your interpersonal skills.  Make this a part of your development plan and be committed to use your interpersonal skills daily to help improve your organization.

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Nancy Kirk-Gettridge is founder of Phenomenal Image, an executive development firm focused on helping her clients gain confidence and take control of their careers. Confronting workplace challenges and her own limiting beliefs, Nancy is committed to helping her clients see themselves as qualified leaders and risk-takers. Nancy frequently writes about resolving gender bias in the workplace. Key topics include career management, leadership training/development, succession planning and overcoming workplace issues.
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