The eastern philosophy of leadership states:

“The wicked leader is he/she who the people despise.
The good leader is he/she who the people revere.
The great leader is he/she who
the people say ‘We did it ourselves.’” – Lao Tsu

What makes a great manager/leader?

There are many characteristics of great managers/leaders.  Among the top eight is that great managers/leaders:

  1. Help develop people;
  2. Create positive environments and care about the well-being of their team;
  3. Treat people with respect, honesty and trust;
  4. Are able to communicate;
  5. Are self-aware and can acknowledge weaknesses;
  6. Pick their battles wisely and set the tone for healthy debate;
  7. Are responsible, flexible, courageous, tenacious, and patient; and
  8. Display a combination of humility and presence.

In the above list of eight, please note the importance placed on ‘people skills’ – the ability to achieve great results by dealing with people in a friendly and effective way.

However, “people skills” is what most mangers/leaders admit they lack!

It is reported that the lack of ‘people skills’ is the number one reason that managers/leaders do not meet performance expectations.  According to the Institute for Executive Development (2010), under-performance is about the lack of interpersonal and leadership skills, such as the ability to build relationships, collaborate, and influence.  Furthermore, in a study reported in the Harvard Business Review (April 16, 2013), it reveals that most managers lack empathy and the ability to build people-to-people relationships.

Where can managers/leaders get ‘people skills’ training?

Great managers/leaders know that sharpening current skills and learning new ‘people skills’ will pay off.  There are several ‘people skills’ training and development options to consider:

1.    Formal Workplace Training – in this type of training, the presentation structure is similar to a ‘class’, where an ‘expert’ teaches you ‘people skills’. Research shows that this type of training is ineffective in that the content is soon forgotten (look up “Forgetting Curve” or “Ebbinghaus”).

2.    Informal Workplace Training – should you be motivated to learn ‘people skills’ you could do this on your own. Through a process of trial and error, your ‘people skills’ training can take place haphazardly during the day. However, this type of learning tends to be unpredictable and may prove to be frustrating.  Without a structure, you may revert to your old ways of doing business.

3.    Nonformal Workplace Training – this type of training is mid-way between formal and informal. It is intentional training and offers structured objectives, and support. In nonformal workplace training, planned activities are presented by a professional trainer. These activities are just enough information, presented just in time, and are just big enough for easy consumption (frequently referred to as microlearning).  The advantage of nonformal workplace training is that learning can occur at the initiative of the individual and as a by-product of more organized activities.

How can managers/leaders find a nonformal workplace trainer?

Nonformal workplace trainers are out there; however, it may take a little work to find the best match for you.  Here are some points to consider when looking for a nonformal workplace training company.

You will want a company that:

  • Is designed on the principles of microlearning; a type of training that deals with small learning chunks accompanied by short-term learning activities.
  • Focuses on material that reflects the way you live, work and learn.
  • Makes it possible for you to train anywhere at any time.
  • Offers support and encourages self-discovery.
  • Allows you to focus on information not already possessed.
  • Is self-paced, flexible and casual; and
  • Offers a concurrent program, one for you and one for your team; a program that fills the ‘people skills’ gap until you get your proficiency up to speed.

Improving the ‘people skills’ of managers/leaders tends to improve all the skills of the people they manage and lead!