At work, it’s likely that your concentration is probably on hard skills that give tangible results and allow you to perform your job. Technical skills help you maintain deadlines and keep you effectively multitasking on all of your different projects. People skills, also called soft skills, are less tangible. Unfortunately, they become much easier to push to the side in an attempt to stay on time and in line with project needs.
However, don’t under estimate the importance of soft skills! People skills, in particular, are actually the foundation of your operation. An Oxbridge Academy article suggested that soft skills are related to character, and work is not just about what you do, but the way you do it. People skills create the environment, which in turn, pull together the cohesiveness of your team. People skills tell others how you see them and yourself in the scope of the workplace environment.
Lynn Taylor, in her book, Tame You Terrible Office Tyrant, How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, indicated that people skills mean maximizing effective and productive human interaction to everyone’s benefit. There is a need in people to connect with each other. When strong people skills are integrated into the workplace, productivity and engagement increase. Building trust allows people work more effectively together. Soft skills can be more challenging to develop since there is not a procedural measure for developing such skills, but like any skill, people skills take conscious effort, ongoing practice, and a commitment to self-development to improve the way you connect with yourself, others, and the world.
Not yet convinced that people skills are important? Consider a recent Washington Post article, Cathy Davidson cites two studies that found workforce readiness isn’t only related to hard skills. As an example, Google analyzed hiring, firing, and promotion data from the start of the company in 1998 to the present time. The most essential qualities Google found for its top employees included communicating and listening well, valuing different points of view and values, having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues, and critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Google also found that their highest functioning teams were those with members that exhibited the qualities of curiosity toward the ideas of teammates, empathy, emotional intelligence, and emotional safety.
When you embed these type of strong people skills into the structure of your workday, you’ll help create an environment that shows value for, not only the workload and schedule, but also the people and culture that surrounds your project. Here are three must have people skills that will help enhance the effectiveness of your project management:
1. Keep the Big Picture in Mind
When you are on a deadline, projects need to move quickly. Everyone has a different way of thinking. Don’t make the mistake of seeing that fact as a roadblock to getting things done. When you view the world only from your perspective, you miss opportunities to find out-of-the-box solutions or creative strategies. You limit others (and yourself) when you make judgments about their perceptions and processes. One way to keep a big picture view is to reduce your inclination to look at other people and situations as only good or bad. When you start with the idea that you have the only good answer, you limit the ability of other individuals on your team to participate. The goal of big picture thinking is to open up possibilities that you may not see when focused on your one part of the project. All the players in a project need each other for success!
2. Don’t Let Emotions Control Your Decisions
Whether we like it or not, emotions play a role at work. The challenge of managing emotions has been tied to the idea of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence gives you an awareness of the role of emotions within yourself and the people around you. Instead of reacting to situations and people, emotional intelligence helps you to gather information before making decisions or responding to events. A recent YouTube video by Mitchel Adler discussed the value of emotional intelligence in the workplace. He suggested that when you have a negative emotion such as fear, you want to eliminate that and start to feel safe on a gut level. One way to feel safe is to build stories. In your story building process, you could lose valuable information that helps you make more informed decisions. The stories you create may come before having all the information and can impede your ability to look at the big picture. The lesson is to strive to create an environment where the fear doesn’t exist in the first place—a safe space where everyone feels heard and emotions (and their resulting stories) won’t escalate and impede your project’s progress.
3. Strive for Authenticity
If soft skills relate to character, then an authentic nature gives people a sense of trust that translates into increased productivity and a greater desire to work together. According to the American Psychological Association, a quarter of employees in the U.S. do not trust their employers, and only about 50% of them believe that their bosses are open with them. A lack of transparency within any group of individuals can result in marginalized employees and disloyalty amongst the workforce. One way to build authenticity into your character is by making sure that your words and actions match. When there is a disconnect between what you say and what you do, you cause micro-fractures within the relationship. These fractures can cause bigger cracks in the fabric of your project.
A focus on developing people skills will be invaluable as you deal with yourself, with other people, and situations at work. These skills are the building blocks for how you listen, communicate, and relate to others. The value added when you improve people skills is a more cohesive team, which translates into improved efficiency, healthier engagements, and enhanced communication. Your project will thank you!