Importance of People Skills in the Workforce

Want to be an effective manager?  Having good policies and processes in place will help get the job done, but getting the most from your staff requires you to pay some attention to your people skills.  People skills are important because they tell and show others how effective you deal with many different types of individuals on a daily basis.  The wider the range of others in terms of ages, cultures and company levels that one can deal with, the better that person’s skill level.

It really does not matter which field you work in, whether it is tax, accounting, HR or marketing, the most successful individuals in each area are not necessarily the ones who had the highest university GPA or those who are the most technically gifted, but rather the top stars in each field are the ones with the best people skills.

So where can you learn or develop these soft skills?  They are not taught in school and while you can learn them on the job, that would only be the case if you work with someone with exceptional soft skills (or horrible ones) and they are  willing to mentor you to develop yours.  In school we focus all our time and energy on maximize our grades and probably spend zero time learning to effectively interact with others

Then into the workforce come these brainiacs with super-high GPA’s and they work hard and talk about how smart they are, and watch those with superior personal talents moving up the corporate ladder faster them they do. 

By the time they realize what it takes to advance in an organization, it is usually too late, as people tend to get set in their ways after being passed over by someone not as smart but who pleases everyone.  These individuals will have reached a ceiling in their fields relatively quickly in their careers.

The world, both corporate and non-corporate, desperately needs more leaders and this lack of leadership will not be filled anytime soon if the majority of the workforce is lacking in people skills. Fortunately, this problem can be addressed in two ways. For those already in the workforce, companies can utilize seminars and workshops as part of on-going professional education on these skills including diversity training. All management, current and potential candidates, should attend such development sessions or take online courses.  The result will be a much more efficient management which in turn will mean bigger profits.

The other way is to start in school and expose students at every level and as early as possible to principles of people skills. It may need to be made part of the regular curriculum. Of course, staff including teachers and professors should also be exposed to their own developmental workshops as well since they were most likely not given the opportunity during their own years as students for this type of training.

It might also help to include parents in the education process from the get go so they can foster a more balanced development for their children besides focussing the balance on education and sports / arts.  

But at some point every good manager should have that talk with their staff about their soft skills and if the staff member reacts defensively, then sign them up for all the courses because that might just be the justification you were looking for!

Mentoring

Mentor?  Who needs a mentor?  Seriously…

Well…  I do. A mentor is that person who can help to steer you clear of troubled waters, and help to shed light on the positives when things get rough.  You chose them because they have qualities your desire to learn, develop and nurture.  If you were put in a formal mentoring program then someone else thought you needed to develop certain skills which your mentor possesses.  Use the opportunity to learn, experience, partake and grow as a human and as a businessperson.

But here the thing…

Don’t take a mentor’s advice as the end-all-be-all on whatever topic is being discussed. They are people just like you and me and are capable of being wrong, just like you and me. They may mean well, but sometimes it is better to trust your gut and not your mentor when deciding to move or not move ahead with a business idea. If you have the power to turn your business idea into a success, then why hand the power to turn your idea into a failure over to another person?

I had to ask myself this question recently, after leaving a meeting with a mentor feeling confused and frustrated. The 1st meeting with my mentor went quite well.  I learned a lot, and was completely overwhelmed at what to learn first.  It appeared there was too much to learn.  How was I ever going to know as much as they do?  Will I ever come close?  The discussion was informative and encouraging.   My mentor was honest about their area of expertise and offered advice from that knowledge base.  It was GREAT!  After the second meeting however, I questioned EVERYTHING and that sucked the confidence right out of me. 

I took a while to think things over from their perspective.  Was that just wasted time  Absolutely not!  The best laid plans can appear to be no-brainers if you don’t have the opportunity to see them from the other side.  Having that chat with my mentor helped me do just that.  Besides, you know your vision and your potential better than anybody.  Appreciate mentors for who they are…  Folks who can provide information to HELP you make a decision. Don’t let them make the decisions for you.  Use them to play devils advocate and tell you how they would do something.  Unless they were in exactly the same situation dealing with the same person, the ball is still in your court.  They want you to succeed as much as you do or they would not have agreed to mentor you.

So for the next session I discussed my fears and concerns and that meeting helped bring everything into context.  I felt so much better. 

Enjoy your mentor, and use them to help you get a better understanding on your strengths and weaknesses and life.