People skills include all of the qualities, characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors that one needs in order to create positive experiences with others. People skills can include many things — from knowing to extend your hand in a welcome handshake, to saying “thank you” when someone offers you something. While these might sound basic and obvious, it’s surprising how many people don’t even know to do these things.
People skills also include having a genuine warmth and interest in other people. It means doing more listening than talking, and it means acknowledging others and letting them know that others do notice and care about their contributions.
Great leaders typically possess well-developed people skills. After all, leadership is all about people and no one wants someone in charge who can’t connect with people is a positive, engaging, and value-added manner. That being said, there are people who end up in positions of power who lack skills to productively interact with others.
No one is born with people skills and there’s no magic to it. We may have some inclinations towards certain behaviors, but our skills develop because of environmental influences which are positively reinforced throughout our developmental years. Our experiences and behaviors that are reinforced influence the development of our personality and our skills and abilities.
Some people have what it takes to be a leader, but their people skills might not be up to par. The good news is that these skills are learnable. With the right coaching and integration of new behaviors into one’s daily life, over time one can make positive changes that produce better relationships with others. In one particular course I teach, we practice skills and techniques to connecting with others in a natural and positive way.
When you think of “people skills,” what types of things come to mind? Make a list of these items and then rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best. Which skills do you need to improve? Select one or two and make a concerted effort to demonstrate them in the upcoming week. Notice the results. More than likely, you’ll find that you’re engaging and connecting better with others.
“Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” — Tom Landry
Tara Kachaturoff is the creator, producer and host of Michigan Entrepreneur TV, a weekly television talk show featuring business leaders and businesses from start-up to stellar. With over 15 years of experience in corporate finance in the tech sector, she now coaches executives, business professionals, and entrepreneurs on leadership, management, productivity, and marketing issues. Tara is also the author of 21 Qualities of a Leader from which this article is excerpted.