Act! Blog

Key interpersonal skills for business leaders and managers

an illustration of people sitting around a table and a manager standing beside them with a cilpboard speaking to them


“Interpersonal skills” is an umbrella term for how you build rapport, or communicate and interact with others. These are the skills that enable you to work with and lead team members. They also help you build strong relationships and keep your team performing at its best.

When it comes to business interpersonal skills, the following are a must:

icon with two conversation bubble depicting communication skills

      Communication skills

Effective communication skills are a hallmark of outstanding leaders. Whether you’re a business owner or manager, you must have the ability to convey information clearly and concisely. Also, you must choose your words carefully to avoid demeaning or offending anyone.

Keep in mind that communication skills in business management aren’t limited to speaking with confidence. Your body language matters just as much. It includes your non-verbal communication like facial expressions and posture, as well as whether you make eye contact and what you do with your hands while speaking.

icon showing a conversation bubble next to an ear depicting active listening     Active listening

Effective interpersonal communication skills in business aren’t just about how you transmit information. You must also listen to the other person with patience to understand the information they’re sharing with you. 

To develop active listening skills, pay attention to their facial expressions, hand gestures, nods, and tone of voice. The idea is to understand what they’re trying to convey and how they feel instead of planning your next response. 

icon whowing conversation bubbles and thumbsup depicting conflict resolution

     Conflict resolution

Conflict can arise with team members, customers, or vendors. As a leader, you must approach difficult conversations around a conflict with an open mind.

Focus on understanding the other person’s perspective and arriving at a middle ground instead of trying to win the argument. When you handle conflicts with ease, it sets an example for team members and gives them the freedom to challenge each other without losing their temper. These problem-solving skills can stop conflicts from blowing out of proportion. 

icon with a hand holding a heart depicting empathy    Empathy

Empathy is about putting yourself in another person’s shoes even when you disagree with them. It helps you look beyond your beliefs and perspectives and understand why people behave the way they do. 

Whether you’re giving negative feedback to a team member or addressing a customer’s complaint, empathizing smooths out the interaction. It can be instrumental in winning their trust and building lasting interpersonal relationships.

icon showing two heads with two arrows depicting self awareness   Self-awareness

You can’t motivate the people around you without understanding what drives you. That’s where self-awareness steps into the picture.

Self-awareness involves identifying your flaws and weaknesses and understanding why you experience certain emotions. It’s the key to regulating your feelings and improving emotional intelligence. This helps you navigate conflicts and difficult conversations without losing your cool.

How to develop and improve your interpersonal skills at work

illustration of people leaning against a star

Strong interpersonal and communication skills are the hidden force behind a positive work environment and a thriving business. If you want to build or enhance your interpersonal skills in business, here are a few effective tips.

1. Identify must-have skills

Start by evaluating your strengths and weaknesses to identify the interpersonal skills you already have and the ones you must develop. Ask those around you to pinpoint things you could improve in your interactions. 

For instance, you might be great at understanding other people’s perspectives and approaching conflicts with an open mind. However, conveying your feelings and ideas might seem challenging. If that’s the case, it’s time to work on your communication style

Once you’ve identified the essential skills, set measurable and time-bound goals to keep you on the right track.

2. Learn by observing

One of the most effective ways to improve your soft skills is to observe successful interactions. Keep an eye around your workplace to notice how other team leaders and managers communicate with their team members and customers. You could also look at some successful business leaders for inspiration.

For instance, you might observe that a manager uses non-verbal cues like body language to make others feel comfortable during a conversation. Or you may find that they use specific techniques to regulate their own emotions when dealing with conflict. Start adopting these traits. 

3. Improve with practice

The more real-life practice you get, the better your people skills will be. The easiest way is to find a mentor who can engage in different conversations with you and offer constructive feedback.

Alternatively, you can join a formal training program on building interpersonal skills. Use your professional network to find recommendations for such programs or look for them on the internet.

If possible, record your interactions with others and replay them to identify areas of improvement. For instance, you might observe that you tend to interrupt the other person or overuse filler words in conversations. Spotting these gaps will help you improve your communication and interpersonal skills.

4. Ask for feedback

Regardless of the type of interpersonal skills you want to develop, you must seek feedback. When you interact with team members, ask whether they observed any issues with your body language, tone, or word choice. You can also ask if they felt attacked or demoralized. 

Besides team members, seek feedback from other people you interact with every day. These include supervisors, coworkers, and business partners.

Successful teams are built on effective communication

Strong communication and interpersonal skills can be instrumental in fostering a culture of teamwork and productivity. As you improve your people skills, you set an example for your team members. That, in turn, will motivate them to put their best foot forward.

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