Although most managers appreciate the significance of good interpersonal skills in the present competitive business world, still in some societies, this concept has received very minimal recognition, because it is a skill that some managers do not possess, or if they possess it, they do not put it into practice. In addition, although structured approaches of managerial training in the business world emphasize the need for managers to use these skills as one of their primary managerial tools, most learning programs are wanting, because of their smaller number of topics on this concept. This paper will critically review how managers in Bangladesh view the concept of possessing and putting into practice good interpersonal skills through a survey and how learning programs have failed to equip managers with this important managerial skill. In addition, it will discuss the significance of possessing good interpersonal skills and how managers and other leaders can develop and improve their interpersonal skills.
Interpersonal skills are primarily communication skills. They are skills that one uses when interacting with others (Caroselli, 2003, p. 17). Also, they involve active listening and the use of a correct tone when communicating with others. Good communication skills are of great significance in several aspects of life and the business world. Although one can be very talented, without this skill, a manager can be a disaster to a firm, because it is an important tool when it comes to converting thoughts into useful contributions (Smithson, 1990, p. 9). In today’s global and competitive business environment, these skills are important as organizations struggle to be ahead of their rivals and as they attempt to garner an additional segment of clients. Among other approaches, organizations have ventured into using consistent and reliable customer service in their differentiation strategies. However, for this to happen organizations must have employees with some set of interpersonal skills, which should be put into practice in their business, social, and personal lives (Smithson, 1990, p. 53). For instance, an employee can take days producing the most brilliant presentation that has never been created in order to win a contract from a client, but lack of interpersonal skills to do the presentation effectively and confidently is likely to deny this employee a chance of winning a client’s confidence.
Lack of proper interpersonal skills or the use of these skills in Bangladesh was evident from the results of the survey that I carried out on managers of 15 small (10 to 50 employees) local companies in Dhaka (the capital city of Bangladesh). According to the survey’s results, 14 of these companies did not have any form of the formal training program, internal or external, to improve their managers’ interpersonal skills. Also, 12 out of 15 managers thought that interpersonal skills are very important, primarily for sales and marketing personnel. Another survey of academic and vocations’ programs revealed that only a limited number of topics related to interpersonal skills were irregularly covered in higher education. Generally, in Bangladesh, company directors and managers do not have a clear idea about “interpersonal skills” and their implications; hence, most of them have never used them in their daily operations.
Benefits of Good Interpersonal skills
They Help Individuals to Discover Themselves
Although most individuals consider the process of acquiring interpersonal skills to be a simple task, having self-knowledge is a very challenging task for many executives. For individuals to know themselves, first, they must be aware of any blind spots that surround them, which are those situations that they cannot handle, and their optimal business performance levels (Caroselli, 2003, p. 71). To some managers, this may involve failure to listen to others as they air their views, while to others it is avoiding to involve others in the decision-making process, more so on very tough decisions that are of dire urgency. On the other hand, to others, it may concern difficulties in coming up with appropriate methods of motivating their staff. As matter of fact, numerous managers have a tendency of sweeping their weaknesses under the rug instead of accepting them and finding the best solutions to them. In most scenarios, unless this is dealt with, the majority of these like managers’ efforts are likely to backfire; in most cases, when it is too late (Levy, 2009, p. 50). Therefore, it is important for individuals to understand themselves because by understanding their weaknesses and strengths, they can find better ways of improving their general performance.
They Are Important Tools for Maintaining Control
In most cases, numerous managers believe that they have control of everything going on in the firm; something, which most staff and employees hold contrary because most of them watch in silence. The main remedy to this like situation is for managers to set parameters that will help them to realize when they are losing control and how to fix such challenges. It is very important for managers at one point to pause and reflect when they are in territories that need a lot of commitment. If a manager’s control strategy tends to make such a manager overreact, such individuals must learn how to control it (emotionality). However, if one’s way of managing things is more extreme, especially when it leads to excess stress or shutting down one’s leadership abilities, it is necessary for such an individual to learn how to avoid that by adopting better strategies of understanding themselves (Caroselli, 2003, p. 11).
They Encourage and Maintain Motivation
Motivation is not just being optimistic, but rather, it must embrace perseverance. As Wright (2007, p. 27- 29) argues, it is a biological-based connection with a set of points for optimism that makes some individuals look at a glass as half empty and others as half full. Neither of these groups is wrong because reality encompasses both extremes (negative and positive ideas). Managers with good interpersonal skills directly or indirectly encourage their employees and maintain a motivating environment in them, because of the good relationship that they establish (Sommers, 1998, p. 93). On the other hand, although most leaders without this skill can do their jobs perfectly, a lack of interpersonal skills may de-motivate their juniors. This is because; optimism runs down from managers to employees. If managers have great dreams, then their teams will stay motivated and they will always struggle towards better outcomes. On the contrary, if leaders are pessimistic and generally critical, all their teams will become less productive and more risk-averse (Levy, 2009, p. 66).
On the other hand, perseverance goes hand in hand with motivation and the key player here is interpersonal skills (Johnson, 2002, p. 29). Leaders must always demonstrate the ability to stay on course whether they are in trouble or progressing well. In addition, they should set clear visions on where the firm should head in the long run. To achieve this, managers are supposed to make very crucial decisions that can lead the firm to high positions. Also, they have had to use interpersonal skills to seek help, more information, and advice from the right bodies and people (Kagan, 1994, p. 41).
They Facilitate Recognizing of Other People’s Interests
Good managers will always listen to what their companions are saying by taking in every matter instead of taking sides, even when they lack proper support (Janasz, 2011, p. 32). Through possessing good interpersonal skills, managers are able to choose a win or lose situation instead of a win or win situation. In other words, they should be open to ideas and ready to analyze every situation before making a decision. There is a need to have other people’s perspectives, although such ideas are not practical, good managers should just buy them and put them behind their agendas or sometimes make them be a backup plan, in case they want to have proper control (Smithson, 1990, p. 62).
They facilitate Communication flexibility
Communication flexibility is the ultimate mark for any great and triumphant leader (Smithson, 1990, p. 68). The ability to alter a communication style according to the situation on the ground and taking necessary actions, while considering different effects of such actions, is the only way of promoting stability and healthy competition (Smithson, 1990, p. 19). For instance, although companies can fear threats from other competitors who happen to have better strategies that seem to outshine theirs, the way that managers of a company will communicate their company’s strategic goals and plans is always the primary determinant of the amount of market share that an organization will win (Kagan, 1994, p. 44).
How to Develop and Improve Interpersonal Skills
Improving interpersonal skills is not a one-time thing, but rather, it is built over a lifetime owing to the steps that must be taken to build these skills faster and more effectively (Levy, 2009, p. 79). The first method of creating good interpersonal skills is through reading. This is the first thing that managers should do if they want to learn anything. There are many articles and books on how to develop interpersonal skills and good emotional intelligence. The majority of these books and articles provide strategies for real-world situations, ranging from conflicts to motivational concepts (Levy, 2009, p. 80). A second strategy of promoting the development of good interpersonal skills is talking to your team. It is of great significance for managers to teach those around them better methodologies of giving open and honest feedback about their management techniques. It is not degrading or compromising for managers to let their subordinates know them, as this is one of the primary ways of enlisting their help (Kagan, 1994, p. 54).
Additionally, managers can improve their interpersonal skills by doing an official assessment. With the current improved technology, evaluation can be done using online tools or some interview process that will encourage their participation in a collaborative manner with other stakeholders (Janasz, 2011, p. 66). By doing this, other skills like awareness of blind spots and better opportunity developing strategies can emerge in the process. On the other hand, working with a coach can make managers to develop perspectives that might not be clear to them or those around them. A coach can help a manager to realize exactly what is happening. Through using the help of coaches, individuals will also be able to know the direction their managerial policies are heading and ways of dealing with any shortcomings, which may occur in the process (Yancey,Clarkson, Baxa & Clarksonand, 2003, pp. 1-4 and Hayes, 2002, pp. 91-93).
In conclusion, in the current business environment, all managers should possess these soft skills to competitively compete with the rest of the world (Yancey,Clarkson, Baxa & Clarksonand, 2003, pp. 2-4). Success in developing good interpersonal competence is ultimately determined by the experience of stakeholders. It does not matter how communicators believe in their abilities to deliver, because the delivery of the required results primarily depends on whether such communicators are able to interact with their subordinates and other stakeholders. Additionally, If the teams that a manager leads are not content or do not appreciate how a manager controls an organization’s systems, then to a larger extent, such a manager is a failure, because such like a leader is far from maximizing any inherent and learned leadership abilities (Kagan, 1994, p. 49). Therefore, considering Bangladesh’s situation, there is a need for organizations to start appreciating the significance of good interpersonal relationships in their managers. Companies in Bangladesh can achieve this by developing and implementing both internal and external training programs, whose primary agenda should be to equip every employee (more so managers) with good interpersonal skills. In addition, companies in collaboration with the Bangladesh government should make sure that any management or business-oriented courses in higher learning institutions impart in learners the required managerial and interpersonal skills that are practical and essential in the present corporate world.
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