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The single most important factor in the success of all
organizations is people. It always has been and it’s not likely to change any
time soon. I’ve taught leadership in organizations of all sizes for over 20
years. Two things are abundantly clear: there is a lack of basic productivity
and interpersonal skills in the workforce and the companies that invest in
their people to develop these skills consistently do well.
It’s easy for decision makers to look past this. So much
focus is on numbers. Numbers are important of course, if there are not profits,
there will be no enterprise eventually. What is missed, or too lightly
regarded, is that numbers come from the
people. Not a single person. The sum of all the people. From the person
answering the phone to the interactions that result in business transacting to
servicing and retention.
Daily human interactions greatly influence the working
environment in a company. They set the tone for the interface with the public
and they affect customer relationships, the backbone of organizational
longevity. These skills, referred to as soft skills, are the hardest to learn
and the most important. Training an employee to be technically proficient in
the work is not an issue for most companies, but having people who are adept at
navigating the myriad of situations with various personality types, in real
time, both internally and externally, and in the most effective way, is often a
Through my progression from grade school to an MBA, at no
point was I required to undertake extensive training in people skills. As I
work with leadership teams, I see that I’m not alone. The most basic teaching
on listening skills, questions and conflict resolution are one “aha moment”
after another for these decision makers. They are quickly able to see how they
could be more effective with their people.
This is further exacerbated in today’s business climate as
this generation of employees, who are devoid of basic soft skills training to
start with, have navigated much of their formative years through technology.
Their direct in-person and real time skills are lagging dramatically. Yet they
step into work situations where they have to interact with people, in important
situations, without the benefit of taking the time to formulate the best answer
via text. This is a recipe for miscommunication, conflict, and lost
opportunity, which translates negatively to the bottom line.
Investing in these skills doesn’t just help employees be
more effective in their work, it makes them more confident, positive, and
proactive in general. This has a positive impact on the entire work environment
which naturally spills over into the external interactions where the public
interfaces with the business. In addition, employees are more effective in life
to the point where it is a community reflection on the company. It is a
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