When developing the skills of your current and future leaders, it’s important to recognize what to focus your leadership training on and how to deliver it in the most impactful way possible. Here, we are going to focus on one key aspect of good leadership: interpersonal skills. Communication is the basic building block of all relationships, but it’s difficult to communicate consistently at a high level. So, let’s get something straight: even though leadership is a form of interpersonal skill, it employs many other soft skills in order to be successful.
What interpersonal skills play a role in leadership?
If a leader is unable to share their ideas and vision with those around them, they will be unable to affect organizational change. This is one of the great differences between people who are simply at the top and people who are great leaders. There are several interpersonal skills that are particularly important for emerging leaders to develop.
- Listen actively – there’s nothing like being listened to, especially when you are used to your input being ignored by the people above you.
- Build trust – if employees see that their leaders are untrustworthy, they will often hold back their performance and resist organizational change.
- Develop empathy – approaching situations in the workplace from a place of empathy can cause real change. When people feel that they are understood, they are more likely to accept change.
Creating learning experiences that develop interpersonal skills
When building your training courses, consider how you can push the training envelope to reach the unique needs of the learner. Can you engage employees with new modalities, such as AR/VR, web-based training, or microlearning? A fresh training style can often draw learners in and create engagement. Microlearning, in particular, is an excellent way to create bite-sized training that can be taken without disrupting learners’ tasks.
Remember, though, that interpersonal skills are all about relating to real people. Creating training that feels artificial and contrived (many instructor-led role-play exercises fall into this category) will not be able to take the place of human interaction no matter how in-depth it gets.
Ask the following questions to consider how you can begin developing your training:
- What is the risk of not training this skill?
- How does the employee experience situations that require this skill in the workplace?
- What does the employee need to develop this skill?
Building teachable moments
Designing your leadership training to take advantage of teachable moments will help your learners succeed. If you can’t create ways to teach the necessary skills, you’ll end up wasting time and effort. Consider the following methods:
Set up specific points in the training to ask learners questions and get them thinking about how the content applies to their roles and their own unique characteristics as a leader. This kind of introspection and critical thinking will help retain skills they can later apply on the job.
Reinforce skills through on-the-job training methods. Sitting for hours to take a course that seems to have no bearing on a person’s day-to-day tasks and responsibilities is a key reason why employees often disengage with training. What’s the takeaway from this? Focus the relevance of the content on the learners’ needs. To do this, take time to determine exactly where interpersonal skills need to be applied and target your training toward those points. Then, provide performance support resources for leaders to use during critical conversations.
You must continue to consider the learners’ needs because they will come with a variety of personalities and responsibilities. If your employees are constantly on their feet, consider creating a mobile library of job aids or microlearning modules to access during downtime, providing flexibility. Or, if your employees have more regimented schedules, bring them together into a classroom and apply active learning principles to help them teach each other the skills organically.
Ultimately, traditional leadership models are changing as many organizations shift their structures and roles. Creating learning that transforms both your people and your organization along with it is about more than just the content of the training. It takes an ecosystem of strategy, design, and focus to get your learners excited about and engaged with the principles of leadership. If you pay attention to the needs of your current and future leaders, you will be able to find the right methods to successfully deliver your training.