People Skills – If you Want to Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want to Go Far, Go with Others


Firefighters understand that you can’t do it alone. You have an understanding of the value of a crew on your truck.  If you are not in sync or communication doesn’t flow well on the truck, the consequences can be fatal.  Working together is not an option.

However, when you move up in the ranks and find yourself sitting at a desk, leadership can become managerial and administrative in nature.  Behind the office door, separated from the people who knew what TV shows you like to watch on a slow evening, it’s easier to forget the interrelated success of people helping people.

The New Job Market

Recently, there has been substantial growth of nonstandard jobs in the ‘gig economy.’ Part-time employees, temporary employees, independent contractors, and on-call employees all represent flexible working arrangements in non-traditional formats.

A startling 30% of workers are working in non-traditional work models. Many workers in these situations are there by choice and find it rewarding personally and financially.

However, these structural changes inhibit workplace-based social ties and people skills. When flexible working arrangements are the norm, we see friendships at work decrease. Social Capital, or the connection shared by people and marked by reciprocity, promotes trust and cooperation.

Social Capital and Happiness – Back to People Skills

In the workplace,  although it takes time and effort to create social capital, many studies have shown that social connections with coworkers are a strong predictor of job satisfaction.

People who have meaningful relationships at work (friends) are happy people. Leaders who recognize the importance of developing cohesive relationships with others knows that everyone wins.  Everyone succeeds.

Leaders put WE before ME.

We need team spirit, shared decision-making, and collaborative working environments, to build strong bonds.  Successful teams require high performance with and equal to a solid sense of belonging.

Leaders and Social Captial

The more self-aware we are of our behaviors and attitudes, the better leaders we become. You might want to ask yourself:

Are you willing to diminish the hierarchical structures to ensure that all team members experience recognition for the essential roles they play?

Can you see yourself putting the collective needs above your own?  Would you champion the efforts and successes of others, shaping their futures at every possible opportunity? Will you mentor those who serve with you and help them in turn, to lead others?

Many leaders conduct their day protecting their image.  I know I have worked with them.  Moreover, I bet you, and I could swap some stories. We all admire the men and women who showed their value by how they helped others evolve into their best selves at work. We tell our children about the effect they had on our lives and our future.

Will you stand up and be that leader?

Asking Questions is Ground Zero for Building Your Social Net Worth

When we are interested we become curious.  Showing your interest in others demonstrates to them how much value you see in them as people.  Your actions reveal your interest in their success.  When we talk about people skills, I refer to the leaders who help others feel like they belong, and that they are valued.

Leaders can use questions specifically to demonstrate that others are important and build a workplace community of people who model respect and decency.

Sample Questions to Ask When People Tell You Their Story

  • How did that situation make you feel?
  • What is it about that experience that you loved?
  • You have probably felt this same feeling before. What is it about this story that makes it so unique? How did the experience affect you and whom you have become today?
  • What was the lesson from that experience that you still carry with you today?
  • Of all the stories you could have shared with me, what makes this specific one so unique that you chose to share it?