3 Ways You Can Join The People-Skills Revolution

Compassion. Candor. Transparency. Communication. Engagement. Balance.

Twenty years ago such attributes would’ve been seen as a waste of time. Today, in a world of enormous change, those same attributes are seen as critically important for anyone who needs to build trust and lead others.

Quite simply, there’s a People-Skills Revolution going on. Because we’ve seen too many people get promoted into management who have personalities and communication skills that are not well suited to working with others, let alone managing or leading them.

The strange thing is, the people who are most desperately in need of more people skills just don’t seem to get it. They have no idea how important people skills are or no idea how poor their own people skills are. And they may pooh-pooh these “soft” skills as a bunch of nonsense. Too bad for them and their careers … and too bad for all the folks around them.

I’m going to assume, however, that you are a part of the People-Skills Revolution or want to be. That’s partly why I write a new Tuesday Tip every week. Here are three ways to becoming a more effective member of the People-Skills Revolution that will make a positive difference in the people you live and work with.

► 1. Belief: Exhibit a strong belief in the people you are leading.

For the most part, the people around you know how you feel about them and what you expect from them. And to a great extent they will live up or down to your expectations.

So ask yourself: What do you expect of other people … deep down? Do you expect them to perform well? Or do you expect them to goof up, slide by, and slack off without your constant supervision?

Some leaders really struggle with this simple concept of positive expectations and believing in others. They’re convinced that some people on their team will never amount to anything.

Take, for example, these excerpts from actual performance reviews. It’s obvious from the comments that these bosses did not believe in their employees.

  • “Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom … and has started to dig.”
  • “This employee is really not so much a ‘has-been,’ but more of a definite ‘won’t-be’.”
  • “This young lady has delusions of adequacy.”
  • “He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.”
  • “This employee should go far … and the sooner he starts the better.”

By contrast, when you’re a part of the People-Skills Revolution, you believe in others. Highly effective leaders know that everyone on their team has a vast reservoir of untapped potential. And using the right approach, these leaders help their people release and use their untapped potential.

So what is the right approach? It starts with understanding.

►2. Understanding: Show your understanding of the people you are leading.

Plato talked about that hundreds of years ago. He understood the importance of understanding. He said, “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how small.”

And he was right. You wouldn’t criticize your one-year-old child who kept falling down when they were learning to walk. You wouldn’t say, “You look really stupid stumbling around … or … What’s wrong with you anyway? … or … I can’t wait all day for you to learn what you should have learned last week.”

No, you would show a patient understanding of your child’s learning process. You would encourage them every little step of the way. And you should lead the other people in your life and at work the same way.

I like the way author Thich Nhat Hanh puts it. He tells us to treat people like lemon trees — with understanding. Thich says:

“When we grow a lemon tree, we want it to be vigorous and beautiful. But, if it isn’t vigorous and beautiful, we don’t blame the tree. We observe it in order to understand why it isn’t growing well. Perhaps we have not taken good care of it.”

“We know it is funny to blame a lemon tree, but we do blame human beings when they are not growing well. But human beings are not very different from lemon trees. If we take good care of them, they will grow properly. Blaming never helps. Only love and understanding can help people change.”

The right approach to bringing out the best in others starts with your understanding. And then it moves on to certain behaviors you must exhibit.

That’s what Cheryl Stevens from Tyco Healthcare learned. As she says,

“I attended your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program five years ago and I have to say that your program has been the most positive and influential aspect in my life these last five years.

For example, the VP at Tyco Healthcare approached me and inquired whether or not I would be interested in becoming the regional sales manager for Southern California. He started listing skill sets, character traits, and leadership qualities he had witnessed in me … the exact things I learned at your Journey program.

And I got the job.

► 3. Application: Pass the five-point leadership quiz every day.

You see, your Belief in someone and their potential builds the foundation for more productive relationships on and off the job.

And Understanding builds the bridge to someone’s heart and mind.

But Application refers to the actions you take that move and motivate others to do their very best. They’re the energizing force that get others to join the People-Skills Revolution as well.

To make sure you’re making the right applications, I urge my coaching clients … and I urge you … to ask yourself these five questions at the end of every day. It will transform your leadership effectiveness.

If you can answer all five questions with a “yes,” great. You’re probably quite effective as a leader or parent or whatever role you play. And wherever you answer with a “no,” get to work. Do something about it.

1. I recognized someone in my group today with a sincere thank-you or some other form of recognition. (If you’re not doing that, you’re leaving some of your people’s untapped potential sitting on the table.)

2. I taught, coached, or motivated someone in my group today. (If you’re not sure, you need to be asking the people in your group how they feel about it.)

3. I listened to one or more people in my group today. (If you answered “yes,” write down what you learned. If you can’t remember, you didn’t really listen.)

4. I can name three leadership techniques I used with members of my group today. (Okay then, name them. Write them down.)

5. I can see that every member of my group is meeting my expectations. (If you say “no,” outline on paper what you will do to improve their performance.)

Hopefully you are able to say “yes” to all five statements every day. If not, do something about it.

And the more consistent and persistent you become with your Belief, Understanding, and Application, the more folks you will enlist in the People-Skills Revolution.