21 Aug 2017 18:45 IST

How to be a more effective ‘people person’ at work and why it matters

It isn’t enough to just be good at your job; you also have to be able to work well with your team

Move over social butterflies. Any successful person will tell you that being a ‘professional butterfly’ is just as important if you want to climb up the corporate ladder. A joint study by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center revealed that success at work can be attributed to well-developed soft and people skills 85 per cent of the time, while technical skills and knowledge (hard skills) account for just 15 per cent.

Here are five ways to become a better ‘people person’ at work:

1. Don’t sympathise. Instead, empathise: Being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is important if you want to build the right connection, without being sympathetic. Use your past professional and social experiences to relate to people and situations effectively. This doesn’t mean you always agree with the other person; it’s about your willingness to look at things from a neutral standpoint. Empathetic statements such as “you are good to tide this over successfully” are often better than sympathetic ones such as “I know it’s hard for you”. The trick lies in knowing how and when to show empathy to pull the right chords.

2. Be human, not robotic: How often have you responded to questions such as “hey, what’s up?” with “all good, how about you? You just killed all possibilities of a follow-up conversation with such a robotic answer. People have an innate desire to connect with people who are spontaneous, outspoken, and have an amiable vibe about them; all non-robotic attributes. Even if you are in a senior position at work, there’s no harm in revealing your human side to peers and subordinates. It will only improve their perception of you, making way for better two-way communication at work.

Personal growth

3. Amplify your positive characteristics: Are you witty, selfless, considerate or thoughtful? No one is devoid of positive qualities; identify yours and work towards improving them to connect with people better. Create opportunities to have fun, make people smile more, and send out positive vibes through your actions and body language. At the same time, be open to receiving criticism and take a joke in the right way.

4. Get a handle on your emotions: The ability to control your emotions ranks as one of the top three people skills one must have. Once you have a grip on your own emotions, everything else — from managing stress productively to keeping team members focused — becomes easier. Generally, at a workplace, people are either anxious (unsure of what the future holds for their jobs), frustrated (excess workload, resource crunch, and the like) or angry (from feeling taken for granted or violated, and the like). To become a better ‘people person’, recognise what causes you to be stressed and then coach yourself to stay calm in the face of triggers.

5. Be an active listener: Most people only listen to half of what the other person is saying; the rest of the time their minds are busy forming a response. Active listening is about hearing someone speak with complete focus. It takes more time and practice, but the results far outweigh the effort. An active listener comes across as genuinely interesting to other people. If you are in a leadership position, it is imperative that you cultivate good listening skills, for it is one quality that not only boosts communication, but also helps you identify issues early on to mitigate them without any risk to business continuity.

Acquiring good people skills is harder than technical skills

The value proposition of soft skills has sky-rocketed in recent times as global businesses experience higher uncertainty, volatility, and the need to innovate. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, 92 per cent of companies now rate soft skills as a critical priority. In fact, the role of HR leaders is slowly transitioning from a ‘chief talent officer’ to ‘chief employee experience’ officer, reiterating the significance of people skills in leadership positions.