Friday, 22 May 2009

Effective “people-skills” are not the same as “being-nice skills”.

It seems that Verne Harnish, like many, may equate people-skills with being nice. If so, then he's mistaken. Effective people-skills are about effective communication – skills that many managers and subordinates don’t have regardless of whether they are nice or not.

In his Insights newsletter this morning Verne Harnish quotes NY Times columnist David Brooks' article on some recent research on CEO effectiveness that apparently indicates that people skills are overrated and execution/persistence more important.

Verne seems to take that to mean that effective CEO’s are not-nice. For instance he cautions that the data is about “big company CEOs" whereas owners of “smaller firms often have to be nicer to people in order to attract and keep top talent” he says.

Does that mean that people are so keen to work for big firms that they put up with and are unaffected by bad behaviour that they wouldn’t tolerate in a smaller firm? I doubt it.

Effective “people skills” are about effective communication and effective communication isn’t “being nice”. In fact it can be so tough that “nice people” can’t bring themselves to communicate effectively. Instead they skirt around the real issues, manoeuvre and manipulate, expecting others to somehow “get it”.

Being an effective communicator is about being assertive; being not-manipulative; it’s about persistence and execution. Unfortunately most communication in work organisations is way less effective than it could be. The result is dissatisfaction, distress, disengagement.

Learn how to communicate more effectively. Don’t be nice. Be effective: be purposeful; know your audience; persistently interact to establish shared understanding; identify and check all assumptions; listen.

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