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The #1 Trait in Leadership Training: People Skills

Last Updated: Aug 3, 2022 | Leadership

An article was published three years ago in the Harvard Business Review titled, “As Your Team Gets Bigger, Your Leadership Style Has to Adapt.” Among the helpful insights in the article, such as moving from direct to indirect management and recognizing that people will treat you differently, the last big change mentioned was that people-centric skills matter most. As executive coaches, we see this last adaptation as the first — and most important — change a successful leader must navigate. If you want to grow your leadership skills, you must develop your people skills. Read on to learn more about leadership training and how to develop your people skills from Arden Coaching.

A Story of Leadership Development: Sienna’s Journey

Sienna (not her real name, of course!) is a client who has enjoyed a classic pattern of career growth and promotion. She’s bright, ambitious, and achievement-oriented. She’s often two or three steps ahead of her colleagues in her thinking and her execution.

Sienna began work at a large New York City-based IT services company as a marketing manager. From there, her expanding expertise in marketing took her through a succession of increasingly responsible marketing roles in the organization. Through every promotion, she has excelled, organically growing a number of important leadership characteristics along the way. Recently, she had been promoted to vice president of marketing for a major division of the company.

This time, however, things were different. She had moved from managing 3 people to 10 people, to 15 people. As a new vice president, she’s now managing 40 people. Sienna’s long-time, historic strength — deep, hands-on marketing, and promotional expertise — no longer serves her large department. In fact, when Sienna inserts herself in the department’s work and demonstrates her marketing savvy, the team perceives her efforts as micro-management. The 40 people in the division’s marketing department need something very different from their new leader.

Building Your #1 Leadership Training Skill: People Skills

Working with Sienna, we are helping her understand the critical importance of focusing on people skills in her new, elevated role, and effectively developing that skill set.

What’s the big deal about people skills?

A quick 30-day audit of Sienna’s calendar, projects, and priorities was revealing. Several employees have annual reviews in the process. There is one instance of interpersonal conflict that she is mediating. Corporate is rebranding, and Sienna needs to work with her department to form a clear vision of the new brand. Three new projects are being launched and each project team needs to work together in a trusting, productive, results-oriented environment. She is also dealing with two employees who are underperforming.

Successfully leading and navigating these challenges has almost nothing to do directly with marketing! Sienna saw clearly that the work she is engaged in requires strong communication skills — and listening skills. It requires the ability to orchestrate difficult conversations and offer meaningful, constructive feedback. It requires skill in nurturing and guiding high-performance teams and developing strong working relationships.

 A Terrific Starting Point: Emotional Intelligence

In our view, all of the leadership traits mentioned above, from communication skills to build strong relationships, begin with developing your emotional intelligence.

Based on the work of Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence is a way of thinking about the capacity you have to successfully manage yourself and your relationships. Awareness is fundamental, but being able to act on that awareness is what builds and demonstrates true emotional intelligence.

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Self-Awareness revolves around recognition and includes having an awareness of your own emotional state, understanding how your behavior impacts others — and appreciating how others impact you.

Self-Management is your ability to regulate your personal behavior — also based on your awareness — and includes emotional self-control, adaptability, and maintaining a positive outlook.

Social Awareness is also concerned with recognition and includes empathy, discerning the mood and emotional state of others, and strong listening skills.

Relationship Management is your ability to regulate your behavior with others — based on your awareness — and encompasses getting along well with others, influencing and inspiring others, teamwork, and handling conflict effectively.

Consider the various characteristics of emotional intelligence in the 2×2 matrix. What are your strengths? Where might you be falling short? We know it’s hard to look in the mirror dispassionately. Arden Coaching uses the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i 2.0) — perhaps the most widely used emotional intelligence assessment tool in the world. It is based on more than 20 years of global research, its rigorous reliability and many validity studies make it a popular choice among our clients.

Either way, develop your leadership skills by starting with your emotional intelligence and then working to build a full and robust repertoire of people skills.

To learn more about leadership training, emotional intelligence, and how to develop your people skills as a leader, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.

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