People Skills: Not More Of That “Touchy-Feely” Stuff!

Organizational development efforts that involve improving people skills often bring resistance. The raised eyebrows, folded arms, stiff half smile or other skeptical body language of doubting managers say the following: Not more of that touchy-feely stuff! 

Resistance and skepticism come with the territory, however.  HR professionals, consultants and trainers frequently have to address this resistance before meaningful leadership development can occur.  They must make the business case for the importance of the “touchy-feely stuff” by addressing the following managerial objections:

1. I Don’t Have Time For That Touchy-Feely Stuff!

It is true that it takes time to communicate, coach, and develop others.   And, in the short run, these efforts can be more time consuming than just directing and controlling staff for results.  The manager who focuses on developing her/his staff and becomes more effective at creating an environment that motivates others will both improve unit results and gain more time, however.

Skilled staff who are committed to the goals of the unit and appreciative of the manager’s style give more to the enterprise.  They are also more valuable to the manager as they have the right skill set with the right attitude to get the work done.  In reality, managers cannot afford to ignore the touchy-feely stuff!

2.  I Am Not Here To Babysit!

Supervising others is difficult and people issues are usually present in any complex organizational problem. It is also true that conflict comes with managing and leading people.  To expect otherwise in the workplace is unrealistic!   Also, the work of the business enterprise is done through people and we are emotional beings.

There will be times when staff performance will be below expectations. Instead of viewing conflict management and performance management as babysitting, the manager should look at this aspect of her/his job differently. It is her/his people-management role and it is critical to the success of the work unit.

3. I Can Just Hire Someone Else To Do The Job!

True, a manager has the organizational power to get someone else to do the job.  While getting rid of non-performing employees may be the right choice of action for some situations, it’s a flawed strategy if this is the manager’s only approach for dealing with performance issues. This strategy creates unnecessary costs for the organization.

Organizational turnover is expensive so creating a revolving door hurts organizational profits!  Sometimes the correct course of action is for a manager to invest the time in getting her/his existing staff to perform as needed. The costs to hire a new person include internal staff time for recruitment and selection, advertising, relocation, onboarding, training, etc.  Other hidden costs include reduced productivity from the vacant position and possibly from the existing staff as well. Finding someone else for a position is sometimes necessary, but this strategy is too expensive if it is masking the need for a manager to improve his/her people skills.

4. It Won’t Make A Difference With My Team Anyway!

Longstanding problems can be discouraging especially when a manager or leader has tried hard to work with her/his team. Managers who make a sustained and genuine attempt to create a work environment that motivates their team members are often surprised however at how positively  their team members respond to their efforts. The key is that the manager must understand her/his individual staff members and what they value and then match what s/he needs to those values.

Parents know they cannot treat each child the same to get the best results.  Coaches know they cannot treat each athlete the same to get the best results.  Savvy managers learn this as well about their team members.

Motivation is individual and it is much easier to lead people when they want to do what they’re supposed to do!

5. It’s Too Late! I’ve Already Made Too Many Mistakes With My People Skills!

There is a cost for past mistakes.  Life teaches us that!  Life also teaches us, however, that we can move beyond our mistakes. We just have to move on to something better.  In the workplace, the same is true.

Staff will initially be skeptical of a manager who decides to use a different approach to communicate and interact with her/his team.  They may not believe that the manager is committed to changing her/his interpersonal style. With consistent behavior however, staff will understand that the manager has changed and will respond accordingly.

Many, if not all of the team members, will appreciate that the manager has adopted a better approach to interact with them.  This is not really surprising. The true benefactors of a managers improved people skills are her/his staff. Employees want their bosses to have good people skills.

Today, the business environment is too competitive and dynamic to ignore the “softer side” of management. Command and control leadership has its place, particularly in a crisis, but its time as the preferred way of leading people has passed. Command and control is a limited use strategy. Managers need people skills!

Studies have shown that people skills are on the rise.  Managers and leaders who continue to improve their people skills will find that they are also helping to increase their own career options in their organization or elsewhere.

It is time for all managers and leaders to value the “touchy-feely stuff!”

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