Teams and Balancing Skills, Part 5 – People Skills

Soft skills, people skills, collaborative skills, or whatever you want to call them, if you have people working in teams you need to understand these. So often we base our view of people’s’ skills in this area on the interview process, how well interviewers “liked” them. And sometimes without much more thought than a Facebook Like requires.

This area is the third and final portion of a Team Skills Framework, one that I have used quite often when working with teams, selecting employees for the teams, an identifying the best combination of skills for the next person to hire into a team.

For the purposes of this framework, I define People Skills as an individual’s general ability to interact with other people. This is much more than if they like to work with people, but about how they can get things done better from how they interact with others. They are more productive and they enable others to be more productive. Or, not, if they lack these skills.

People Skills – moderate to high capability

As with the other areas of Technology and Information, I look at this as a continuum, which I subdivide into three groups. There are people with skills below the lowest level described here, but we don’t consider them in a team environment.

  • Mentor – This is not just the ability to effectively coach others, but includes the recognition of others that this is a person you WANT to go to in order to get help. These are those rare finds that are unselfish in their ability to share their knowledge and insight to help the team grow.
  • Collaborate and Lead Situationally – Consider the Technical Skills area for a second – if an employee ranks high in this area, you sometimes need them to step forward to lead others through certain work, like a maintenance shutdown. They can, as needed, work very effectively and positively with others, even if that is not their preferred day-to-day work.
  • Follow Direction – They say you can’t be a leader if you don’t have followers, but these are still thinking followers. If you expect full adherence to safety and quality regulations, no room for shortcuts, then you need people who will follow directions. That is a minimal level expectation.

I’ve participated in over a thousand job interviews, and for entry-level jobs I have had my fair share of people telling me that they like to work with people (who says they would rather not?) and that they are a “people-person”.  That tells me nothing. I need to dig deeper and find out if they really are. That’s when you find the guy who risked injury routinely in order to maximize his break time, or the one who continually ends up working with people who don’t understand them.

We aren’t all leaders, and many of us don’t want that accountability. In a High Performance Team, Situational Leadership is a key component. You want the most knowledgeable person on a particular topic to take the lead on issues regarding that topic.

That concludes the definition of all the components of the framework. In the next few posts, I will show what it looks like when you put it all together, and why it might be a powerful tool for you when you are trying to create teams with balanced skills.

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