Improving your social skills at work
Lucy Harrison outlines the importance of interpersonal skills in a business
Have you ever had a boss that didn’t notice what you did, no matter how hard you worked? Or one that seemed to ignore the signs things weren’t going well and carry on regardless?
How did that impact on you and your work? It is highly possible you felt frustrated, irritated, disengaged, disempowered and quite possibly stopped bothering to try too hard.
And yet it is likely this boss did not mean for this to happen and they had the best of intentions. I don’t believe anyone comes to work to upset people, make things worse, to not care or do a bad job. But sometimes the way you show up at work means all these things happen.
By not noticing or acknowledging people and situations, we suggest we don’t care, whether this is true or not.
And if people feel as if we don’t care about them and what they have to say, it makes them feel disengaged, demotivated, uninspired.
There are plenty of statistics showing you just how much impact this has on the productivity and quality of work.
Showing you care matters.
Yet our worlds are often so busy, we don’t have the time to ‘care,’ do we?
60% managers we recently talked to say they feel like they miss things underneath to overwhelm of the to-do list, they just don’t have time or things are changing so fast they never find time.
People are under pressure. Managers are feeling the strain of testing targets from their leaders and broader demands from their teams. This creates a survivor behaviour when managers just do what they need to clear their emails, rather than have the space to think about what is really going on.
If this is you: too stupidly busy to have time to stop and ‘care’ for everyone, but you realise you need to do a bit more, then we have two things for you to do. Notice more intentionally. And then acknowledge what you have noticed.
Create the time to notice intentionally
Creating time to notice will save surprises and rework later. It’s easy to think you are seeing everything or have everything you need to make good decisions, but recent studies estimate humans take in around 11 million pieces of information at any one moment, but can only consciously process around 50 of them. So it’s no surprise we fail to notice things at times.
By taking time to consciously and intentionally notice more, or different things, you will attune your senses.
You may have noticed this phenomenon when you are looking to buy a new car for example. You become more observant. You begin to see more of your favourite car. Your focus begins to shape your reality. You get curious, notice details and begin to think more clearly about what you want.
When you don’t notice, or don’t pay attention, you miss things. It may just be you miss a beautiful day or don’t spot yellow cars. More importantly though, at work when you don’t notice consciously, you can miss important and critical issues. Mistakes might happen or opportunities might pass you by.
By seeking to intentionally notice more, you open your conscious to new information, you shift your focus to different areas and being to rewire how your brain processes information.
You can intentionally choose to notice more in three core areas. Think SOS (Self, Others, Situation).
Notice what is going on for yourself, your thoughts, feelings or patterns of behaviour.
Notice what is going on for OTHERS, changed emotions or behaviours, their achievements or challenges.
Notice what is going on in the SITUATION, both in the detail and the bigger picture.
Noticing more may help your awareness of the team dynamics. It may help your ability to spot opportunities and threats to the business. You may discover things about yourself and build relationships.
But what about when you have noticed something, but you pretend not to? Or you have assumed everyone else has noticed too, so best not mention it?
For example, you may have noticed a growing sense of unhappiness in a colleague, or conflict between two team members, or increasingly poor behaviour of a member of staff but you choose to overlook it and hope it resolves itself.
You pretend not to notice.
Everyone is prone to ignore things, or pretend they don’t know. When things are scary or unknown or threatening, you are more likely to fall into this trap.
The trouble is sticking your head in the sand rarely works, the issue you ignore just gets worse until you can ignore it no longer. And the people you ignore feel like you just don’t care.
Acknowledge what you have noticed
When you acknowledge what you have noticed, it demonstrates you have noticed, heard or appreciate something/someone.
The act of acknowledging brings things onto the field of play; you accept, admit or recognise it is what it is. You can’t work with something unless you have acknowledged it.
By acknowledging someone, you demonstrate you care, which helps people feel valued and builds trust and engagement.
By acknowledging what is going on for you, you give yourself an opportunity to do something differently, to rewire your automated responses and make better choices. Acknowledging an issue is the first step towards solving it.
The good news is acknowledging things is not just about facing up to the scary issues. Acknowledging is also about showing you have noticed or received something and publicly expressing thanks. So think about acknowledging the good, the bad and the ugly.
When you acknowledge the good with others, you show you care, you build trust, increase connections and develop your relationships. It can be used to explore diverse viewpoints and build deeper understanding to aid decision making. Acknowledging the good is extremely powerful.
Sadly, in environments where you are only as good as your last set of results acknowledging the good is rarely done well or consistently.
Acknowledging the bad and the ugly takes courage especially when you don’t know the way forward.
In a team setting, acknowledging a tough situation is a core aspect of leadership. It is raising and seeking to address the elephant in the room without having all the answers.
Great leadership is not about having all the answers, it is about having confidence in yourself and your team that you will find the way forward together. Acknowledging is powerful.
The more you intentionally notice, the more you will see. You can then choose what to acknowledge to show you care.
And this doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just take a few seconds more to consciously notice yourself, or others, or the details of the situation you are in. Then choose to acknowledge, whether verbally or non-verbally, something you have noticed.
Oh and one final thing? Try and notice the positives. If you start looking for rubbish, that is what you will find. You’ve been warned!
Lucy Harrison is director of The Harrison Network theharrisonnetwork.co.uk