The Hard Truth About Soft Skills

Every manager will come face to face with the specter of his communication skills limitations. It often happens at the worst times. During a crisis, at an important team meeting or with a client. Unless a manager is constantly working to improve his soft skills, also called interpersonal skills, he will come to the point of his own limitations.

No matter what business you are in, you are in the communications business. Communications are the currency of all business interactions. While managers and executives often work on their technical skills and keep current with emerging trends, some do not see the need to consistently expand their knowledge and skills in the area of interpersonal dynamics.

As Marshall Goldsmith so succinctly put it, what got you here won’t get you there. It is imperative to constantly sharpen the saw in the area of interpersonal skills.

“It’s not personal.” Really? I’m a person, you’re a person and everyone you work with is a person. What’s not personal about that? Deals are made or broken based upon the soft skills of the parties. It is through communications that we gage meaning, intentions and the character of other people.

Everyone has power and influence, the degree of which is determined by personal wattage and amplitude. We can use our power to enhance others, or diminish them. Managers and executives who diminish others are wielding a double edged sword which is likely to cut them, as well. No one in a position of power can afford to cut a swath of interpersonal carnage. The damage that is done by leaders who, while believing they are tough and exacting, are actually bullies who indiscriminately wield their verbal arsenal is tangible and hard to reverse. That damage, left unchecked, will absolutely poison a corporate culture.

Interpersonal justice requires that we constantly monitor our intentions when dealing with other people to make sure they align with our verbal message and body language. Communication skills are essential to positive outcomes in the workplace environment. No team that lacks interpersonal skills will last very long or be ultimately effective. This is the hard truth about soft skills.