People Skills are one of the leadership qualities of the future leader. It is all about emotional intelligence and communication.
To learn more about developing this Leadership Quality, read How Coaching Exercises Can Help You Develop into a Successful Future Leader
People skills have always been an essential leadership quality and will continue to be so. They are one of the leadership qualities of the Future Leader.
Leaders constantly deal with people. They interact, liaise, communicate, and negotiate with followers, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. They have to listen to them and influence them.
All the time.
In sum, there cannot be great leaders without excellent people skills.
It’s as simple as that.
Let’s look at Emotional intelligence and communication, the two key elements of people skills.
Who hasn’t heard about emotional intelligence?
EI (also known as EQ) has been in vogue since Daniel Goleman made it popular in the 90s, although it’s a concept Maslow had already explored in the 50s. Emotional intelligence is supposedly a better predictor of success than the traditional type of intelligence, the one measured through IQ tests.
Goleman initially talked about five dimensions of emotional intelligence, although other thinkers have proposed different adaptations to the model.
The five dimensions in question are the following:
1. Self-awareness – knowing oneself, one’s emotions, strengths, development areas, values and goals, and using intuition to make decisions.
2. Self-regulation – controlling emotions and impulses and adapting to a changing environment.
3. Social skills – managing relationships with others.
4. Empathy – literally, putting yourself in others’ shoes. It’s about understanding other people’s feelings and emotions.
5. Motivation – being aware of what motivates us and acting accordingly.
Emotional intelligence has internal and external aspects to it.
Self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation have a high internal component, as they centre on understanding and managing oneself, while social skills and empathy are focused on understanding others and managing our relationships with them.
High emotional intelligence is conducive to excellent people skills.
The good news is that emotional intelligence can be worked upon, developed, and improved. We will focus more on how to do so in another post.
The importance of emotions
Emotions, or at least some, have a bad reputation, but they are essential to being human.
People say things like:
“Don’t be emotional.”
“You should get your emotions under control.”
“Leave your emotions aside when making a decision.”
“You shouldn’t let others see your emotions.”
They all have a negative connotation, as if emotions were something we were better without, something to be silenced and controlled.
All human beings have emotions, and they all serve a purpose. Human-like beings without emotions only exist in fiction; they are robots, zombies, or Vulcans like Mr Spock from Star Trek.
Emotions have an essential role to play in life. Some are more pleasant than others, but all of them have a function.
Next time you feel strongly about something, listen to what that emotion is trying to tell you. What need of yours has to be satisfied?
If you listen more often and more carefully to your emotions, your people skills will necessarily improve.
Why suppressing my emotions didn’t help me
I have generally been a rational and cerebral person who disregarded what emotions were telling me.
I had issues showing my vulnerability, and I never wanted to acknowledge I had emotions that I thought demonstrated weakness, like fear and sadness. I suppressed those emotions as much as I could.
I would also feel embarrassed about showing love in public, as that wasn’t very manly, or letting anger get the better of me. That was also weak and a sign that I wasn’t in control.
I thought I was doing great by suppressing my emotions, but on the contrary, this didn’t help me at all in my relationships with others.
When I studied to become a coach some years ago, I started to realise how important our emotions are in our daily life, our relationships with others, making quality decisions, and general well-being.
Since then, I have been working on listening better to them and not suppressing them, and I have got better at it, but after decades of emotion silencing, this doesn’t come naturally to me.
It is an ongoing learning and growth journey, but isn’t that what life is about?
Communication is one of the most important skills one can have, as it enables understanding between people, influencing and persuading others, conveying information, and many other essential human interactions.
Communication has many aspects, and we can be good at one and terrible at others. Public speaking is a form of communication, but so is facilitating a team working session, influencing someone in a one-to-one conversation, or actively listening to what others have to say.
Yes, listening is a part of communication, too, a very important one at that.
Many people wrongly believe that a great communicator is someone who can deliver a punchy message. The true great communicator is a great listener, first and foremost.
It’s all about listening
Listening is the most crucial communication skill.
As any textbook will tell you, communication is an exchange of information between an emitter and a receptor through a specific channel.
There are always two parts to it. The receiving end must obviously listen well, but the emitting one should also do so before and afterwards to adapt their message accordingly.
There cannot be good communication without active listening.
Active listening is listening not only with your ears but with all your being. It’s listening with your full attention, with both your rational mind and your emotions.
There are many techniques for how to do active listening properly: sending the right messages with our body language (nodding, maintaining eye contact, etc.), paraphrasing and summarising what we just heard, and so forth.
For me, the most important one is what I call “switching off the radio”. We all have our internal radio on when we are listening to others.
When someone is talking to us, our minds usually don’t stop:
“What she is saying is silly, I know it’s not true, I’ll reply to her and she will see… but she won’t shut up, when can I say my thing? Shall I interrupt her? Her jacket is nice, I like that blue, it suits her… she keeps talking, but I know what I’ll tell her… the man who just entered the café is very handsome…mmmm, I like him…oh, she has stopped now, but where was I?”
This kind of train of thought is more frequent than we think.
Our thoughts don’t stop appearing in our minds, it’s a constant stream that also shows up when we listen to others. Our most frequent thought when listening to others is what we will say afterwards. After a sentence or two from the other person, we have settled on what we will say next, so we don’t listen anymore.
That’s listening “with the radio on”.
In order to listen properly, you need to switch off that radio and be fully present in the conversation. After the first couple of sentences, don’t think about your response and keep listening until the end.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t.
Start doing just that, and your listening will improve considerably, and with it, the quality of your conversations with others.
3 Tips for Excellent People Skills
We have discussed emotional intelligence and communication above, but what is critical to mastering people skills can be condensed into three simple tips:
1. Focus on others, not on yourself
This means listening more and having empathy, but above all else, it means being genuinely curious and fascinated about others and being open to learning something new from anybody.
When people realise you are more interested in them than in telling your story, they will be more open to you, and it will be easier for you to make meaningful connections with them.
Also, if you are genuinely open to learning from others, you end up, well, learning from others, and that’s great in and of itself.
2. Be authentic, be vulnerable
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken”Oscar Wilde
Don’t ever pretend to be someone else; it never works. People can smell non-authenticity, aka fakeness, from miles away, and nobody likes it.
You are unique, like everybody else, so you may as well bring your uniqueness to the world and let others appreciate who you really are.
You are not perfect, of course, but that’s fine, nobody is.
That means that to be truly authentic, you need to display your vulnerability and show others where you are lacking or need development, show them where you are vulnerable.
Vulnerability is a super-power worth using. It brings us closer to others.
3. Use your emotions to your advantage
Your emotions are your friends, not your enemies, so make the most of them.
Listen to them, identify them, cherish them, work with them and not against them, and you will grow as a person. Your relationships with others will also improve as a consequence.
People skills are more important than ever
In a world increasingly dominated by technology and machines, being human and connecting with other humans is more important than ever.
People skills are more critical than ever.
That means knowing yourself and making the most of your relationship with others is vital.
Master your emotional intelligence and communication skills to improve how you manage other people, how you negotiate with them and how you interact with them.
Take care of your people skills, and they will, in their own way, take care of you, too.