When you look at your boss or those ahead of you on the career ladder, can you identify WHY they are more senior than you? What skills landed them that promotion? How do you up-skill and get promoted yourself?
Often it’s not that they know more than you. They are likely to have developed better people skills.
Far from being a fluffy extra, people skills are a hard-hitting tool in the fight for promotion.
Most of us start our career by choosing a function/area in which to develop our knowledge and skills, for example, HR, Operations, Finance, Sales, Marketing.
We then spend several years learning about the technical aspects of our chosen area. We may study to get qualifications demonstrating what we know. We gain experience through working with others. We apply our knowledge in a number of different situations.
As we get more experience, we get promoted. Often, the reason for the promotion is our growing “experience” in people skills and management, rather technical knowledge.
We are promoted into management when we have demonstrated a certain level of people skills on top of our knowledge and technical skills. As managers we are asked to:
The better we are as a manager, the more likely our team is to perform. The above list requires a wide range of people skills.
Whilst it would be great to say management only ever spreads joy and happiness throughout their teams, managers also have to deliver tough messages and deal with many personnel problems. Dealing with these issues all require good people and management skills. How many companies offer specific management training when you make your first step into management, and help you prepare for the tough situations? In our experience, not enough.
Businesses want individuals that have very good people skills for their leadership teams. This is simply because business leaders spend most of their time dealing with people. For the top leaders, 85% or more of their role is leading and managing people.
The company benefits from having good managers and senior management teams. Great leaders and managers create better performance, happier staff, lower staff turnover, a more attractive place to work for staff and a better brand.
It really is in the company’s interests to ensure their managers are well trained and effective. Most companies rely on their managers to mentor their direct reports in management and leadership skills. Some provide additional programmes to supplement this approach.
Developing your People skills is like developing any other skill: it requires practice. And you need feedback to adjust what you are practicing.
A lot can be learnt in theory, by reading books, attending courses and other knowledge transfer approaches. We recommend that you do spend time understanding the theory of leadership, management, negotiation, influencing, presenting and the range of other important business leadership skills. This provides you with a good starting point, and an overview of different approaches will help you identify the styles that feels most natural to you.
But knowledge alone will only help up to a point. You absolutely need to practice the knowledge you have acquired. Practice requires effort and hard work. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet.
A number of us are fortunate to have had an excellent manager who goes out of their way to mentor, coach and help us as we go through the process ourselves of learning how to manage and then lead. These managers provide essential feedback to us so we know what we are doing well and what we need to improve. Without this feedback, we don’t know what to practice.
Some businesses have excellent support programmes in place to help managers and leaders, through leadership courses and coaching. For those not fortunate enough to have internal coaching and support within the business, looking externally is your next option. There are many courses, programmes and coaching options to explore.
Personal coaching is a cost-effective way to support the transition from management into the Leadership positions. This change often comes when moving from a functional number two role into the functional head or into a Company Director role.
Coaching is also an excellent source of balanced and honest feedback.
The stronger your people, management and leadership skills, the more you will be able to deliver through your teams and the better the company performance.
Call us to start your personalised leadership development programme. Call us on 0203 500 6300 or contact us here.