As you rise in your career, your job function evolves from being a producer to a leading producer. Think about the difference between being a graphic designer or software developer and leading a group of graphic designers or software developers. A good leader is not coding or creating images. Instead, a good leader motivates, encourages, and helps the designers and developers do their jobs.
Consequently, the skills you started with are not the skills you will need as a leader. In fact, the most crucial principle in learning leadership is that you do not “do,” you lead. As a leader, you no longer produce things. Your job is to get people to create things, and that requires people management skills.
People management skills include emotional management, communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and relationship development.
Why You Were Never Taught People Management Skills
You have probably not been taught people management skills. This may seem curious as people management skills are essential for career success. However, most people in business lack people management skills, and therefore cannot teach them.
Likewise, college and business school professors do not know how to teach people management skills.
The “publish or perish” rule still exists in academia. It is much easier to write an article on quantitative analysis than on emotions. Finally, business organizations find it easier to train trackable skills that lead to measurable productivity than to teach not easily measurable skills in ROI.
Why Do People Management Skills Have Such a Bad Rap?
People management skills, sometimes called “soft skills,” have a bad rap in business. This is because business people believe that human beings are rational. Business people reject anything around emotions or relationships as touchy-feely. “Soft skills” are not worthy of discussion or development.
Also, because our society is so biased against emotional development, people are afraid of emotions. Most people are shut down or emotionally unavailable. They are fearful of feeling because it makes them feel anxious and vulnerable.
Business people fear being exploited by competitors, peers, reports, and superiors. They feel that learning people management skills make them appear weak and incompetent. It’s as if there is some hidden rule that says we should have strong people management skills without any training.
Obviously, this is pretty stupid. The good news is that you are reading this article about how to develop people management skills. If you follow the advice, you will have a decisive competitive advantage in your career.
The first of the seven people management skills is communication. Communication consists of listening, the ability to use empathy to relate to others, and the ability to be clear and concise in your own speaking and writing.
Ability To Listen
The key to being a great communicator is to listen. The most effective way to communicate with someone is to stop talking and start listening. If you want to understand someone or get the point across to someone, you must understand them.
Listening involves much more than hearing the words. It includes listening for an understanding of the meaning of what the speaker is attempting to convey. And, it includes listening to and reflecting the emotional experience of the speaker at the moment.
2. Empathy and the Ability to Relate
Emotions are the currency of human interaction. If you can understand how your audience feels, you can connect to them on a profound level. If you can help people feel more confident about a problem they’re having, then they’ll trust you and be far more likely to buy from you.
We are incredibly social creatures. As humans, we are wired to be empathetic. We have mirror neurons that fire when we see someone else experiencing something, which helps us understand what they’re going through.
Empathy is the ability to read other people’s emotions and reflect them back accurately. The easiest way to develop empathy is to observe what other people are doing. But if you want to create genuine empathy, you have to look beyond what people are saying and observe their non-verbal cues.
3. Be Clear and Concise
The best leaders are the ones who are the best communicators. They can see the big picture and communicate that vision to their team clearly and concisely. They have a knack for explaining complex topics in an easy-to-understand manner. People can’t follow you if they don’t understand where you’re trying to take them.
You must convey the vision, the strategy, the goals, the risks, the problems, and the opportunities to the people you’re leading. You must be able to express yourself in a manner that is understandable and relatable to your audience.
This requires you to have mastery over your emotions. Without emotion, you cannot persuade and motivate others to follow you.
4. Manage Yourself First
The second of the seven people management skills is emotional competence measured by emotional intelligence. Emotional competence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It’s an essential part of your personal brand. Emotional competence can help you be better at your job, more successful in your career, and improve your relationships with your friends, family, and colleagues.
The more emotionally intelligent you are, the better you’ll work with clients, manage situations in the workplace, and understand and communicate with your team.
5. Develop Your Emotional Competency
Emotional competency consists of self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and resilience. These skills are not taught in formal education and are generally not taught at home in childhood. In fact, 96% of families are emotionally dysfunctional. You must seek out training to develop your emotional competency.
6. Do Not Get Defensive
Becoming defensive when challenged or even verbally attacked is caused by anxiety. Your career success depends on you managing your anxiety.
Anxiety is likely to arise when you’re in a situation that you haven’t experienced before. Learning to manage your anxiety will help you be more confident in new situations and manage your expectations.
Don’t let the pressure get to you. Accept that things will go wrong. Just learn to remain calm and collected under pressure and know that whatever happens, it’s going to be OK. Develop your emotional competency so that you are self-aware and can self-regulate your stress when it arises.
7. Learn To Stay Calm Under Pressure
You will encounter difficult situations where you need to remain calm under pressure. The best way to do this is to develop all options available to you. Then, create an option that covers you when you are shocked. Make sure that you’re always upfront and honest, even when the news isn’t good.
To remain calm under pressure, you have to learn to self-regulate your emotions. You do this through a technique known as self-affect labeling. Essentially, you name the feelings you are experiencing at the moment.
Neuroscience shows that when you do this, you will calm down almost immediately. You have to remember that the stress you feel is all in your mind. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with your situation but is simply your reaction to the problem.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Doug Noll’s page.