I have a client who is a high potential leader and well-respected in her field. Her individual performance is stellar. But when it comes to leading teams and motivating employees, she’s challenged. That’s an obstacle many talented leaders face. Fortunately, it’s one that I can help solve. I am frequently hired by companies to prepare their leaders for upcoming promotions – with an emphasis on interpersonal savvy.
What is interpersonal savvy? Think of it as soft skills and emotional IQ, strategically and intentionally leveraged for positive results. Where it’s most often needed in terms of leadership is within the context of a diverse, high-performance workplace. It is the expertise to successfully interact with all sorts of people, in all kinds of situations.
Here are five great tips to help you develop yours, for a Predictable Promotion®.
#1 Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Before making a quick judgment or decision, put yourself in their situation. Are you really aware of what’s going on in their life?
What have they got on their plate both at work and at home? Have you given them the resources and support they need to do their best work? If you cannot answer those questions, you’re not in a very good position to act as their leader.
Step back and do your due diligence so that you can lead from an informed, empathic perspective. Sure, that takes a little time and effort. But it will save considerably more time and effort because you will be a much more insightful and effective leader.
#2 Stop, Look, and Listen
Most corporate leaders can steamroll through the day, multitasking and getting massive amounts of work done. It’s marvelous to watch them in action.
But when people speak to them they make a rookie mistake. They don’t pay attention. Leaders should always stop, look, and listen before talking, deciding, or taking action. Do that with everyone. It doesn’t matter if they are a senior board member or the lowest-ranking intern.
Give them your full, undivided attention. Listen, without jumping ahead to compose your answer. Then take a really deep breath and consider your response before you open your mouth.
#3 Build Authentic Rapport
Use every interaction to strengthen interpersonal rapport. Make that your first priority. Otherwise, you may accidentally make a terrible misstep. If they just attended a funeral and you ask if they had fun over the weekend, you’ll sound so insensitive.Leaders should always stop, look, and listen before talking, deciding, or taking action. Click To Tweet
You can avoid those mistakes while developing interpersonal rapport by starting off with general, sincere inquiries. How are they feeling? How’s the family? Is everything okay at work?
Do that before diving straight into the nuts and bolts of business.
That will set the tone for your conversation and also provide you with more insight into the person. The more you learn about them, the easier it will be to inspire them and lead them.
#4 Learn How They Communicate Best
You should always use whatever communication style builds natural rapport and makes communication clearer and more effective.
Say, for example, that a team member is not very skilled at expressing their thoughts in writing. But they are really good at brainstorming on the phone or in person. Don’t email them. Call them.
Always give people the opportunity to communicate with you in the way that is easiest and most effective for them.
#5 Master Multiple Leadership Styles
If someone takes every critique too personally, being blunt with them is a major leadership blunder that will inhibit their performance. But when a person is spreading gossip about another team member, you need to confront them.
So what do you do? When I work with a client, I carefully evaluate their leadership style. Then we work to expand and develop it, so it’s not one-dimensional.
Interpersonal savvy means you have a full repertoire of options and can strategically adapt, depending on who you’re dealing with and what the situation happens to be.
The Bottom Line
Develop your interpersonal savvy, and you’ll go places that you never imagined possible. Fail to develop it, and you’ll plateau as a leader. An MBA and technical expertise are awesome assets. But without finessed soft skills they will only get you so far. I want you to fulfill your full leadership potential, as well as your career dreams. Practice these tips and techniques and they will raise your emotional intelligence and give you a Predictable Promotion® advantage.
Sarah’s Leadership Acceleration Insights
Here is a handy exercise that can help you monitor and gauge your level of interpersonal savvy. Immediately following the next conversation, you have with a team member, jot down answers to these questions:
- What personal information did you learn about them?
- What personal information about yourself did you share?
- Did you find out if they prefer to communicate in writing or by talking?
- What is their most pressing challenge or concern right now?
If you can’t answer those, it’s fine. Practice seeking out those answers next time. Keep training yourself to be more empathetic, curious, and open to sharing your more human side. Repeat the exercise with others, to develop your interpersonal savvy during each and every interaction.