We’ve all known people who are professionally brilliant, but whose personal style and people skills affect their ability to make an impact and progress their careers.
So says our CEO, Andy - and he’s exactly right. I bet you can think of someone right now who has the best technology, sales or accounting skills but completely fails to win people over to their side. Their career can’t progress, because people can’t easily connect with them.
What strikes me most is that these alleged ‘soft’ skills are actually pretty hard to get right. Sure, I could become an expert at Excel if I put my mind to it, and I’d own that skill for ever. But getting interpersonal skills right is a seriously tall order because it’s a lifelong endeavour.
It’s also an everyday practice. For example, I know how each of my closest colleagues likes to communicate – and it’s not always the same way I prefer to communicate. So I have to put my understanding of them into practice every day, by adapting my approach so that we reach the best outcomes together, while maintaining our strong relationship.
It’s in these moments, when we’re both stretching out of our comfort zones towards the other person’s, that real breakthroughs are made in what we can achieve.
Is it always easy? No. Would I sometimes love to just plough on, full steam ahead, without having to consider all the preferences in the room? Probably yes! But I know that isn’t the best way to get things done, nor is it the way to build and maintain those relationships with my colleagues.
Soft skills are often hard in practice but worth every minute of the investment you make. When relationships are central to your success – and your happiness – at work, then it’s a task in which you should invest some serious time and effort.