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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Journal - Why a Lack of Interpersonal Skills May Be Stunting Your Business Growth

CEO Journal

Why a Lack of Interpersonal Skills May Be Stunting Your Business Growth

Interpersonal and other relational soft skills underpin a team, department, or even an entire company’s ability to work together. Because they’re less quantifiable, these crucial aspects of a team’s health and effectiveness are often underplayed and undervalued, especially in competitive or stressful situations. However, in these stressful moments, when deadlines loom and challenges abound, effective communication will help a team overcome problems and work together. 

In a time when many employers are privileged enough to be trusted more than the media or government institutions, maintaining a strong relationship with and between team members is critical. Any good leader knows that collaboration and teamwork are the backbones of a successful business venture, but more than half of workers still say poor communication impacts their trust in the workplace.

Teams often dedicate months or years working closely together, investing at least eight hours a day, five days a week. This kind of long-term interaction should ideally foster robust interpersonal abilities, clear channels of communication, and strengthen professional bonds. However, in numerous organizations, issues like ineffective communication and internal discord can obstruct the advancement of even the most collaborative team members.

Communication missteps affect more than just workplace trust. According to a Connected Culture Report, over 71% of team members attribute their productivity to connection and respect for their colleagues. Moreover, a report from Holmes discovered that poor communication costs companies over $37 billion in missed deadlines, wasted resources, and employee turnover. The lack of effective communication costs businesses money, preventing innovation and decreasing cooperation and team efficiency.

Work Stronger, Together

Professional development can often feel like a chore in the workplace, just one more task to check off the list. In truth, comprehensive professional development can elevate a team by providing crucial opportunities for social interaction and professional growth. Solid interpersonal skills are invaluable; they promote trust and respect between colleagues while increasing productivity, creativity, and efficiency. According to last year’s research by The Meyers-Briggs Company, poor communication is the leading culprit for workplace conflict. By offering support and training in soft skills like active listening or open communication, your team members can learn to avoid conflict before it begins and save more time to focus on what matters.

Savvy leaders will rely on these four real-world strategies to encourage effective communication and build relationships that push the team and the company forward.

  1. Open your team to “gift culture.”
    It might go without saying, but teammates are unlikely to learn to work together if they don’t ever, well, work together. Leaders should look for and create abundant and consistent opportunities for teams to collaborate on projects. Even small efforts like group meetings, workshops, or collective deadlines can make a team feel more unified and goal-oriented.

    One effective mindset is cultivating a “gift culture,” where team members are encouraged to freely share information, knowledge, resources, and skills without expecting anything in return. This transparent, sharing culture can be seen clearly in companies with strong mentorship programs, and it’s starting to replace some of the transactional cultures that still permeate many companies today.

    This will obviously look different at every company, but here are some initiatives organizations can implement to cultivate a robust environment for skill development:

    In-House Training: Comprehensive in-house training programs can be tailored to the needs of each department. These sessions not only provide technical skills necessary for specific job roles but also focus on soft skills like communication, leadership, and problem-solving. This blended approach ensures that employees are well-rounded professionals capable of contributing significantly to organizational goals.

    Best Practice Sessions: Recognizing the value of shared knowledge and learning from experiences, consider holding regular best practice sessions. These are platforms for teams to share their successes, learnings, and insights, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collective growth. It encourages team members to learn from each other’s experiences, which helps in refining their own strategies and approaches.

    Training Paths: Designed training paths based on job roles and career progression are great for guiding team members through a series of developmental stages, with each stage designed to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their current role and prepare for future opportunities within the organization.

  2. Encourage collaborative feedback during conflict resolution.
    Collaborative feedback often involves open discussions where team members express their opinions and perspectives. This can sometimes lead to disagreements or conflicts. Effective conflict resolution strategies ensure that these disagreements don’t escalate but rather are used as opportunities for dialogue and understanding.

    Active listening is one critical interpersonal skill during collaborative feedback or conflict resolution that allows people to understand each other. As opposed to “just hearing” when someone speaks, active listening requires several tools to be successful.

    In practice, this can look like engaging in non-verbal agreement, paraphrasing the speaker’s message to clarify their meaning, or even just asking questions and expressing interest. These simple actions encourage thoughtful conversations where the listener encourages sharing and offers gentle feedback. Additionally, paraphrasing and summarizing a particularly complex point means that the listener is more likely to remember the details later.

    Conflict resolution is a vital component of collaborative feedback, and it plays a significant role in maintaining productive and positive team dynamics. Here’s how conflict resolution intertwines with the process of collaborative feedback:

    Promotes Mutual Respect: Effective conflict resolution reinforces the idea that everyone’s views are important and should be considered, even if there are disagreements. This fosters a culture of respect and understanding, which is crucial for effective collaboration.

    Encourages Constructive Criticism: Instead of focusing on the negatives, team members learn how to express their thoughts in a way that highlights areas for improvement without causing personal offense. This makes feedback more acceptable and beneficial to the recipient.

    Maintains Positive Team Dynamics: By ensuring disagreements don’t lead to lingering resentment or strained relationships, teams can continue to work together productively.

    Enhances Problem-Solving Skills: Team members learn how to identify the root cause of disagreements, explore various solutions, and reach a consensus, which is beneficial not just for resolving conflicts but also for tackling work-related challenges.

    Enables Learning and Growth: Through resolving conflicts, team members can gain insights into their own communication styles, biases, and areas for improvement. They also learn to appreciate diverse viewpoints, which can lead to innovative ideas and solutions.

  3. Exemplify the excellent.
    You’ve heard it before, but “lead by example” is still some of the best advice in business. Leaders should work hard to model the positive interpersonal skills they want to develop in their team members. What does this mean in practice? Being intentional about offering your people respect, empathy, patience, understanding, and an open mind.

    It might take considerable learning and a willingness to try new communication styles, but walking the walk will have an impact. Setting a positive example extends to all situations––especially stressful ones.

    As team members take their cues from higher-ups, management and senior leadership should endeavor to showcase excellent and intentional interpersonal skills in every interaction, both in and outside the office. Some ways that managers can demonstrate relational skills and interpersonal skills include:

    Mentorship: Being a mentor or finding a mentor can greatly help in building relational skills. This relationship allows for the exchange of ideas, experiences, and advice, which can lead to personal growth and improved interpersonal skills.

    Hypothetical example: An employee is hoping to progress in their career path but is unsure what their future at the company might look like down the road. Role-play activities can be a fun and interactive way to practice various scenarios that a manager might encounter. They provide a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them, and can be tailored to focus on areas needing improvement, like conflict resolution or active listening.

  • Effective Communication: Leaders can showcase their communication skills by being clear, open, and honest in all their interactions. This includes being able to articulate goals, feedback, and expectations effectively, as well as being an active listener who encourages open dialogue.

    Hypothetical Example: Suppose a project has hit a roadblock. Instead of resorting to blame or criticism, the leader calls a meeting, clearly communicates the situation, and encourages everyone to share their thoughts and ideas. The leader actively listens, acknowledges people’s input, and collaboratively works on finding a solution.

    Empathy and Understanding: Leaders can show empathy by understanding and acknowledging the feelings and perspectives of their team members. This can be done by regularly checking in on their team’s wellbeing and showing genuine interest in their concerns.

    Hypothetical Example: A team member seems to be underperforming and looks stressed. Instead of simply focusing on the underperformance, the leader takes the time to check in with them, asking how they’re doing and if there’s anything impacting their work. This empathetic approach not only helps the leader understand the issue but also builds trust and respect.

Interpersonal and other relational soft skills underpin a team, department, or even an entire company’s ability to work together. Because they’re less quantifiable, these crucial aspects of a team’s health and effectiveness are often underplayed and undervalued, especially in competitive or stressful situations. However, in these stressful moments, when deadlines loom and challenges abound, effective communication will help a team overcome problems and work together. Managers today can’t be satisfied just running the numbers if they want long-term growth and scale; they must build lasting relationships.


Written by Melanie Clark.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Journal - Why a Lack of Interpersonal Skills May Be Stunting Your Business Growth
Melanie Clark
Melanie Clark is the chief marketing officer at Abstrakt Marketing Group, a business growth company that provides a complete suite of lead generation solutions.


Melanie Clark is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn.