HAVE you ever worked for an @#$%hole?  You know, the kind of boss who’s grumpy, unfair, inconsiderate, and rude.  We pretty much all have.  You can imagine that the first 360 degree review such a person gets gives them quite a shock.

“What do you mean? I’m tough but fair, and I know how to get people moving”, might be their response, ignoring, evading, or rationalizing the fact that they are not well-liked, demotivate the people around them, and stymie productivity and innovation in the organization.

This is one kind of person who lacks “people skills”.  They have very little understanding of their own personality, and an inability to engage well with others.

Another type of person is timid.  They lack confidence in themselves and are shy with people.  They too find it difficult to engage with others.  There are other types too, but you get the idea.  Some people just don’t really know themselves well, or worse, don;t really like themselves, and have difficulty relating to and engaging with other people, more than on a superficial level.

People Skills, broadly speaking, encompass a vast number of abilities.  They are what allow us to relate to and engage with others.  They are vital to us all, and given the seemingly constant stream of misunderstandings, dysfunctional teams, conflicts, arguments, fights, and wars, are sorely lacking in many people, and far too many titled leaders.

Ultimately “people skills”, boil down to two fundamentals:  self-awareness, and the ability to communicate well.

Who is I?

By self-awareness, I mean having a deep understanding of what’s going on in your head; knowing who you are, what you stand for, and how you operate.  The truly self-aware person knows his or her own character, for the most part because they shaped it intentionally.  They understand their own emotions.  They know what they are doing, and why.   They have purpose.  They manage their own behavior and understand the impact of what the say and do on others.  They make mistakes, yes, all the time.  But they realize their mistakes, learn from them, make amends if required, and move on.

Communication – That’s The Key

When I was a (not so young) junior employee with my first big corporation, I had a great supervisor: a straight-talking, dedicated guy who always had a smile on his face.  He was fond of saying, in a puffed up voice of mock seriousness, “Communication, that’s the key”.  And he was right.

The lack of true communication, meaning the honest, confident, non-defensive, and complete, exchange of ideas, is the invisible barrier between people and the single most effective destroyer of organizational functionality, on any scale.

All the other things that make up the catalog of people skills – empathy, conflict-resolution, negotiation, delegation, motivating others, team-building, and a host more – rely on self-awareness and an ability to communicate really well, as their foundation.

If you don’t know yourself well, it can be difficult to relate to others.

If you can’t communicate well, it can be difficult to engage with others.

Whether you want to be a better leader or a better person, honing your ability to relate to and engage other people is vital.

So here’s some questions for you:

Do you introspect regularly?

Do you know what’s driving your emotions?

Are you free of bad habits and behaviors you sometimes regret?

Do you seek honest feedback from those you respect?

Are you a great listener?

Do others listen eagerly to you?

If you answered no to some of these questions, maybe its time to work on your self, and to hone your ability to engage.  Feel free to take a look around here, you might find some posts that help.  Check the “categories” in the side-bar at right.  There’s plenty more to come.  Maybe you’d like to subscribe – then you won’t miss something that might prove useful.

PS:  Future posts will include insights and tips on how you can shape your own character, a cardinal skill of good leadership.