Updated: Aug 24
What we say is so important to communication. How we say it is critical to effective relationships.
While leadership is timeless, the future of leadership requires adding and developing certain skills, mainly soft skills. All leaders know that communications and relationships are fundamental to high-performance teams. With the persistence of change, the way in which we communicate as leaders is more important than ever. Emotional intelligence was brought to the forefront in the last two years, and there is a need to layer in interpersonal savviness. Mastering both of them can enhance your leadership DNA and effectiveness.
The Hard Work of Soft Skills
Mastering soft skills is difficult and can only be achieved with practice. On the other hand, mastering soft skills is a continuous project due to one inconsistency: you. The work Pivotal Growth has been executing with leaders and their teams sees us revisiting the competency of interpersonal savviness. Effective interactions, or interpersonal savviness, are about real-time scenarios that are different in every interaction. For instance, just when you think you have it mastered, a team member changes. Just when you think you have fluid communication, there’s a risk of misinterprets. These unique circumstances trigger nuanced differences that affect team dynamics and interpersonal work relationships.
We’ve been moving quickly and have had to be reactive as of late. Our current work presents many distractions and, therefore, our focus with team and customer interactions needs to be more intentional.
I recently had an opportunity to do a sales call with the CEO of a high-growth technology company. In my preparation to meet him, I read about his experience scaling and selling a company. That, coupled with my research on his current business, I predicted how he liked to interact. I planned how I could interact with him for a great conversation. But the conversation didn’t play out as expected. We didn’t have an easy time building a rapport, and I wasn’t able to understand his motivators as easily as I thought. When I reflected on this after the call, my gut told me there wouldn’t be another conversation. His follow-up email confirmed my intuition.
Being Interpersonally Savvy
Our ability to connect and build relationships is the key ingredient to success. Interpersonal savviness is such an important skill, and is integral when working with teams and customers.
How do you know if you've mastered Interpersonal Savviness?
Here’s a list of what the skills look like (adapted from FYI For Your Improvement). You are interpersonally savvy when you:
Relate well to all kinds of people – up, down, and across your reporting relationships plus inside and outside your company
Build appropriate rapport by listening, asking questions and understanding your partner
Build constructive and effective relationships
Use diplomacy and tact
Diffuse high-tension situations comfortably
Preserve relationships over the long term
Are focused and present, reject distractions, in each specific scenario
The Importance of Effective Communication
Relationships are the heart of our best work, with communication being one of the most important development areas. To succeed, you need to be a communicator, not a talker.
Our last post on communications continues to be the most read blog year after year.
When we’re in person, we have many more cues to read and have the increased ability to use our intuition. In our 2D video environment, we need different skills and tactics to make sure we’re reading the cues correctly. Being interpersonally savvy means flexing your personality, and focusing on who you’re interacting with, no matter the forum for the conversation. The hardest part of being an effective communicator is that each interaction you have requires a slightly different and nuanced way of communication. There is no formula of consistency in mastering this skill.
The future for effective working relationships sees strong communications as the foundation.
Slowing Down to Speed Up
Most of the companies and clients we work with are performance oriented and, hence, results driven. Like a Ferrari, they are built for speed and performance. High-performance leaders love moving at high speed, and it’s a great way to work until they’ve blown by a critical signpost or exit ramp because they were moving too fast. When a leader has built a diverse team, they’ll have a team member who’s watching for the signposts and knows how to get the leader’s attention. They’ll ensure the leader stays on the right route to achieve the destination.
The most productive relationships are ones that are a mix of fluidity and frustration.
Think about a recent experience that produced an important disruptive thought for you. Did it come from someone like you, or different than you? Most powerful conversations and changes are achieved with diversity of personalities and interaction styles.
We use Pivotal Growth Diagnostics to measure and collect insights on the interaction styles of leaders and teams. We understand team dynamics using a logic/emotion and tell/ask framework. Using these diagnostic insights, we spend time digging into team styles and their flexing (the subtle and intentional adjustments that allow us to meet people in the way they like to interact.) We put importance on leaders being “interpersonally savvy” and “flexible” to achieve results.
The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people. – Theodore Roosevelt
As you look to achieve results in our multi-faceted and change-fuelled business environment, prioritize and practice your communication style. Here are some tips.
Be intentional in how you interact with each person and every team
Be flexible in your style so that it more closely meets the style of others
Understand each of your team member’s motivations
Make a good first impression
Take time to build relationships
Practice your communication skills
Be present and don’t lose focus on who you’re interacting with
Collect feedback to accurately know how you’re showing up
Follow up with intention and timeliness
Our Pivotal Diagnostics can help leadership teams access a baseline assessment and feedback on leadership persona, including communication and interpersonal styles. Contact us to Measure and Master Interpersonal Savviness
Lisa W. Haydon is a business leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years of operational experience leading teams in banking, capital markets, technology and professional services. Lisa’s instinct for sorting through business complexities, understanding distinctive leader personalities, and realizing results compelled her to leave a corporate career and become an entrepreneur.
Her company, Pivotal Growth, introduced a technology tool for leadership development assessment and planning. The suite of tools offers diagnostic capabilities to synthesize and accelerate people performance.
Lisa’s skills and the Pivotal Growth product help companies enhance their performance and support leaders achieving greater confidence and success.