Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beyond the World of Work - People Skills are Life Skills

I once told a friend of mine, "The people skills that the best leaders can help build strong relationships with friends and family. You can - and you should - use them with your kids."

She looked at me as if I were some kind of ignoramus, so caught up in my leadership development work that I was no longer in touch with the real world.

I laughed. I understood her reaction. She was probably thinking about some of the bad bosses she had in her work life. She imagined managers giving orders, trying to control people, and being critical most of the time.

But I asked her to think about what people skills involve: listening, keeping an open mind when engaging in dialog, accepting the feedback people give you, helping people learn from experience, and resolving conflict, to name a few. Yes, doing these things well is essential to getting the best work from a work group. But clearly, these are life skills.

They’re essential to being a parent. Keeping an open mind while talking with a teenager - this doesn’t come naturally. A kid will pop off with something emotional, say something that angers you or shocks you. Your instinct is to say, “You shouldn’t say that.” That’s not dialog. End of conversation.

If a plumber sends you a bill, but he didn’t fix things right, can you resolve the conflict? Can you get what you need while the plumber gets what he needs?

If you’re trying to buy a car, you need to listen, give feedback, and negotiate. The same interpersonal skills that are essential to effective leadership turn out to be vital in your personal life. It’s because they’re all about getting results through people. Leaders need to do that, but so does everyone else.

And it’s not just people skills. It’s also the personal strengths that leaders need to be strong when facing difficult challenges. You need behavior patterns such as patience, perseverance, tolerance, trust, integrity, compassion - and all of the dozens of other personal strengths. Every single one of these strengths is crucial to how you deal with people in your life away from the workplace.

Probably most, if not all of the skills and strengths that leaders depend on are also essential to being an effective human being. If you learn to use people skills at work, they can be there for you in your personal life, too. If you fall short as a leader, very likely there will be consequences in other areas of your life as well. Personal strengths will help you succeed no matter what do - whether you’re in sales or you’re delivering customer service. They make a huge difference, whether you’re a teacher, a coach, a counselor, or a parent

"Well, when you put it that way," she said with a smile.

This post is based on a video interview with Meredith Bell. If you'd like to view the video...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sarcastic Bastard said...

You are absolutely right, Denny. People skills and good manners will take you far in this world.



Anonymous said...

Like everything I read from you, inspiring and useful. Tks