Need Help with Your People Skills? Ask Madeleine

Coworker who needs to work on people skills

Dear Madeleine,

I have a good relationship with my boss. We communicate well and I admire him a lot. Over the last two years, he’s the one who has helped me learn the job and tackle problems.

This great connection has caused all kinds of issues I hadn’t anticipated, however. My coworkers seem to think that he supports me in every situation. People say my success is due exclusively to my relationship with the boss, and no one recognizes my hard work.

To add to my troubles, I am a little bit brash. I tend to be loud and probably a little too direct. I speak out when I feel something isn’t right.

I have resigned from my current employer and am moving on to a new opportunity. I don’t want to leave on a bad note and I definitely don’t want to recreate the same situation in my next job.

Teacher’s Pet

Dear Teacher’s Pet,

Congratulations for being able to build such a great relationship with your boss. That is a useful skill. The trick, of course, is to have a great relationship with your boss, your peers, and—as you eventually get promoted—your own direct reports.

The concept that will be helpful for you right now is Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence refers to the extent to which you are aware of yourself, aware of others, and able to regulate your own behavior to work more effectively with others. Some wonderful books have been written on the topic, including Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Here is a great video summary of the main concepts that essentially lays out the importance of possessing these five personal qualities:

  • Self-awareness
  • Managing emotions
  • Self-motivation
  • Empathy for others
  • Handling relationships

You will benefit a great deal from applying your ambition and desire toward successfully increasing all the above. Otherwise, you are going to continue to crash around and turn people off, which will hurt you professionally.

I can totally relate, by the way—having spent most of my life being described as a bull in a china shop. Brash, loud, direct, and straightforward describes me to a T. I have worked relentlessly to learn to self-regulate. After forty years in the workforce, I still have to put a lot of attention into moderating my natural way of being. It is difficult and sometimes tiring but my efforts have paid off.

Take it from me—honing your Emotional Intelligence is worth it, primarily because you really won’t be able to make a true impact all by yourself. To make a difference in the world you need to be able to work with others and inspire others to do their best. All the research on successful people shows that the ability to build and nurture relationships with people at all levels of the organization is the key to success.

This notion is often challenged by examples of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk—not exactly Emotional Intelligence role models. If you are as big a genius as those guys, then go ahead and ignore me. But if you are just a regular, smart, hardworking, fundamentally decent person who wants a great career, your Emotional Intelligence will matter as much as your intellectual intelligence.

I know you are already on your way—you at least noticed that your way of being hasn’t been working. So as your start your new gig, keep your ears open and your mouth shut until you get to know people a little bit.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!


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