INTERPERSONAL SKILLS

 

Definition

Considers and responds appropriately to the needs, feelings, and capabilities of different people in different situations, is tactful, compassionate and sensitive, and treats others with respect.

Importance

Well-developed interpersonal skills are essential to productivity in a diverse workplace that increasingly utilizes a team approach to accomplish the complex tasks of the organization.  Leaders at every level must understand, motivate and communicate with others.  No matter the brilliance of the thought or the approach, convincing others to work to accomplish it requires well-developed interpersonal skills.  Interpersonal skills (empathy, tact, discretion, respect, helpfulness, integrity, openness to and courtesy for the ideas and cultures of others, active listening, effective and sensitive written and oral communication, cognitive flexibility, emotional maturity, understanding the positions of others, etc.) promote an atmosphere of confidence and trust that grows valuable relationships and inspires a group or a team to accomplish the tasks of the organization.

 

How is This Competency Demonstrated?

Interpersonal skills are exhibited at the foundation level through self-awareness and understanding of one’s impact on others, demonstration of interest in others, and empathy to the needs of others.  Individuals with strong interpersonal skills are willing and able to view things from another’s perspective, reflect an understanding of another’s concerns, and demonstrate listening and other skills, allowing others to be and to feel heard.  They treat others with respect, understand and use effective body language, build trust through reliability and authenticity, and meet commitments.  All employees should be attentive to emotional cues, collaborate with others, and seek feedback to clarify issues and ensure mutual understanding of goals and performance objectives. 

First appointment leaders must promote an atmosphere of confidence and trust, building a team that is characterized by trust, involvement and empowerment.  They must foster a friendly climate, good morale and cooperation among team members, develop and maintain cooperative working relationships, encourage the contributions of others, and guide team members through effective listening, questioning, and discussion skills.  First appointment leaders assist the group in establishing norms that encourage respect, participation, and trust.  They are cognizant of the ways in which emotions and feelings impact a situation, and they demonstrate sensitivity to the needs of those who perceive offence.  They identify and reward supportive behaviors, develop a structure that permits and encourages everyone’s ideas to be heard, and are a positive role model of appropriate interpersonal skills and behaviors. 

Effective mid-level and senior leaders coach, teach, counsel, empower and motivate direct reports to interact with others in a respectful manner.  They actively contribute to problem solving especially in difficult, contentious situations, promoting win-win situations.  They display sensitivity working with people from diverse backgrounds and treat all individuals (from all levels of the organization) with respect, caring and courtesy.  They establish the foundation for a high-performing organization by investing in training to ensure that direct reports have skills that help them understand the perspectives of others, by creating an environment of helpfulness and courtesy, and by treating the public with deep respect and tact while conducting the organization’s work.  Mid-level and senior leaders should communicate enthusiasm, be assertive but flexible, be aware of and sensitive to body language and other interpersonal signals, understand and display an in-depth understanding of the underlying reasons for a person’s behavior or responses, and provide timely, candid, constructive feedback to help others develop. 

Executives must inspire others and set the standards for a workplace culture that is open, secure, confident, empathetic, tolerant, self-aware, caring, engaged, trusting, and trustworthy, while promoting and rewarding direct reports who foster these ideals.  They must use their knowledge of interpersonal relationships to develop integrated, pragmatic, process solutions which cross traditional department boundaries and which foster agency-wide and “enterprise-wide” consistency and cooperation.  Executives should establish long-term connections and trusting relationships with stakeholders and political leaders and work effectively with diverse individuals in a variety of settings.  Executives should build a legacy of collaboration, appreciation and individual development.  They accurately evaluate employees, they maintain positive and productive relations with peers, and they identify and provide appropriate support to stakeholders to ensure negotiation of win-win outcomes. 

Elements of the Competency and Distinguishing Behaviors

 

Element

Distinguishing Behaviors

Promotes and models courtesy, respect, and trust.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Treats others with respect.
  • Values the ideas of others.
  • Displays skill and tact when addressing interpersonal problems.
  • Handles difficult people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact.
  • Does not cause others to loose face; is not blaming.
  • Is not retaliatory.
  • Neither participates in nor condones offensive or discriminatory behavior.
  • Does not join cliques that practice offensive and exclusionary behavior.
  • Does not feed the rumor mill.
  • Is discreet and tactful when correcting or questioning another’s idea or action.
  • Is tactful, compassionate and sensitive.
  • Understands how to use effective body language and tone of voice that convey the right attitude, respect and knowledge.
  • Personally embodies impartiality.  
  • Shows respect for the values and ideas of others, even when not agreeing with them.
  • Corrects problems promptly and without defensiveness.
  • Gladly offers appropriate assistance.
  • Keeps private discussions confidential.
  • Keeps all agreements.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Establishes an environment of helpfulness, courtesy and civility.
  • Treats all members of the team with respect.
  • Pays attention to how the team supports its members.
  • Teaches team members to work collaboratively with others.
  • Helps others respect and listen to the input of others.
  • Gives credit where due in team and other group projects.

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Establishes the cultural foundations for a high performing organization.
  • Communicates clear organizational values and builds commitment, engagement and trust.
  • Exercises official authority when necessary, but relies on personal authority and interpersonal skills, whenever possible, to maintain civility, inclusiveness and fairness.
  • Communicates enthusiasm.
  • Coaches, teaches, counsels, and motivates employees towards greater mutual respect and understanding.
  • Maintains agreed upon confidentialities.
  • Ensures that others understand the power of open communication to enhance workplace relationships and have the skills to be effective members of a learning organization.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVE LEADERS:

  • Embodies and sets the standards for a culture that is open, secure, confident, empathetic, tolerant, self-aware, caring, engaged, trusting and trustworthy.
  • Develops and articulates goals which unite people in the pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.
  • Inspires public confidence and trust in the necessary work of government through personal example as well as Agency policies, procedures, products and services.
  • Inspires and holds others accountable to act at the highest level of honesty and integrity.
  • Is a visible anchor for others by reaffirming key values and the importance of the mission in times of change.
  • Personally exemplifies or embodies the desired change through strong, symbolic actions that are consistent with the change.
  • Is a personal source of energy and direction.
  • Is visionary; sets direction in a way that broadly inspires trust and confidence.

Demonstrates personal leadership.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Steps forward to lead as needed, regardless of position.
  • Builds trust through one’s reliability and authenticity.
  • Leads by example.
  • Engages others; inspires, motivates and guides others toward goal accomplishment.
  • Challenges bias and intolerance.
  • Takes tough, principled stands even if these are unpopular.
  • Persuades others and is assertive, when necessary.
  • Is sought out by peers for expertise and counsel in resolving difficult interpersonal situations.
  • Takes responsibility for personal performance. 
  • Facilitates an atmosphere of open communication.
  • Deals with difficult issues straightforwardly.
  • Is proactively involved in mediating misunderstandings and defusing arguments among peers.

Is self-aware and understands their impact on others.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Recognizes emotions and their effects and manages their own disruptive emotions and impulses.
  • Seeks awareness of the culture, beliefs, values, biases, preferences, feelings and other drivers of behavior—both conscious and unconscious—in oneself and others.
  • Has a sense of humor.
  • Is aware of their personal hot buttons, fears, mental filters and assumptions, and doesn’t let them interfere with working relationships.
  • Understands the implications of personality differences in the workplace.
  • Lets others know one's values, principles, intentions and feelings, and acts in ways that are consistent with them.
  • Can express one’s position and feelings clearly and concisely without accusation, sarcasm or hostility.
  • Stays composed, positive, and unflappable even in trying moments.
  • Thinks clearly and stays focused under pressure.
  • Seeks feedback from others to avoid blind spots that can cause misunderstandings.
  • Routinely questions one’s own possible role in the creation of misunderstanding or dissent.
  • Admits own mistakes.
  • Can let go of the need to be right.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Is open, receptive, nonjudgmental, compassionate and willing to learn and can leave ego out of the equation.
  • Is an empathic listener; cares about others.
  • Listens for the context of what someone is saying vs. focusing on the content.
  • Knows when to step in and when not to.
  • Can distinguish between requirements and preferences.
  • Is approachable and easy to talk to.
  • Takes the time to listen to employees and stakeholders.
Builds rapport and develops and maintains cooperative working relationships.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Relates well with other people.
  • Listens well; remains attentive to emotional cues and unexpressed or poorly expressed meanings.
  • Builds shared understanding by balancing inquiry and advocacy.
  • Does not work in isolation.
  • Collaborates; shares plans, information, and resources.
  • Seeks feedback from others to ensure mutual understanding of goals and performance objectives; clarifies others’ understanding of the issue or situation.
  • Recognizes and values the talents and experience of others.
  • Builds consensus through give and take.
  • Meets commitments and keep promises.
  • Holds self accountable for meeting objectives.
  • Facilitates win-win situations; understands the difference between interests and positions by inquiring into others’ views and remaining open
  • Leaves customers feeling they have been heard, understood, respected and well served.
  • Demonstrates empathy for customers.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Leads and manages an inclusive workplace that maximizes the talents of each person to achieve sound business results.
  • Creates a safe environment for others by helping people get to know one another.
  • Builds a team characterized by trust, involvement and empowerment by exploring team issues, sharing information, soliciting ideas and using participative decision-making processes.
  • Understands collaborative leadership and has good facilitation skills.
  • Identifies and rewards supportive behaviors within the group.
  • Helps the group set norms that it can live by and that encourage respect, participation and trust.
  • Helps team members learn to communicate in productive ways with each other and with other units or groups.
  • Surfaces and resolves conflicts that impede a healthy work environment.
  • Clarifies by restating arguments, ideas or issues so that everyone understands. 
  • Negotiates the objectives of the project among team members and clarifies respective contributions and expectations.
  • Develops a structure that allows for everyone’s input.
  • Emphasizes the benefits of collaboration to help others get beyond turf issues.
  • Develops a mutually supportive environment by recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities for members of workgroups and teams to understand each other.
  • Fairly distributes opportunities and benefits across the entire team.

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Uses collaborative work initiatives to build relationships and to increase the coherence, strength and effectiveness within the unit.
  • Builds better communications and cooperation between levels and across agency divisions.
  • Involves people in the decisions that affect them.
  • Encourages and participates in intra/extra organizational assignments to develop partnering.
  • Steps in to repair relationships among various groups when trust and/or commitment are endangered.
  • Ensures that all partners are treated fairly and ethically.
  • Establishes clear goals/parameters with partners to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Ensures that direct reports have training that helps them to understand the perspective of others.
  • Creates a culture in which feedback is valued, sought out from a full range of stakeholders, discussed broadly, and acted upon.
  • Works with union officials and others to create a positive workplace culture.
  • Encourages debate and open discussion.
  • Actively involves others in planning that might circumvent conflict, such as the development of work schedules, assignments, rewards, etc.
  • Orchestrates win-win solutions.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVE LEADERS:

  • Works towards common purpose with various government offices and agencies and public and private entities.
  • Develops integrated, pragmatic, process solutions which cross traditional department boundaries and which foster agency-wide and “enterprise-wide” consistency and cooperation.
  • Networks with the full range of stakeholders, inside the government and without, to identify and pursue high potential service alliances.
  • Understands, from a systems perspective, how people, teams, departments, contractors and customers work and interact and positively shapes these processes and relationships.
  • Disperses power and decision-making authority in keeping with level of responsibility and knowledge.
  • Uses media to advocate effectively changing the way an issue is viewed.  Creates a consistent stream of relevant knowledge and motivates others to support the issue.
  • Establishes clear messages in strategic goals as well as performance expectations for collaborative work towards common goals.

Understands others and demonstrates cognitive and behavioral flexibility.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Considers and responds appropriately to the needs, feelings and capabilities of different people in different situations.
  • Looks beyond the standard black and white answer; is conceptually complex.
  • Respects, understands, and values individual differences and is comfortable working with different styles, backgrounds, perspectives, and worldviews.
  • Demonstrates empathy with others and can help others understand differing perspectives.
  • Understands and responds appropriately and flexibly to the differing needs of diverse internal and external customer groups.
  • Listens to other views and modifies own perspectives when appropriate.
  • Understands how the issues at hand affect other people and is aware of the consequences.
  • Seeks points of agreement between own views and those of others while remaining receptive to experience, ideas, views and preference styles that differ from one’s own.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Is a skillful facilitator of group processes; has an intrinsic understanding of what’s happening in a group and how to intervene to address whatever needs to be addressed.
  • Seeks to understand the needs of people and the underlying reasons for behaviors.
  • Takes into account the impact of emotions and feelings on a situation.
  • Assesses people’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
  • Observes interaction patterns occurring within the team, steps in when situations might generate disagreement and is sensitive to the needs of those who perceive offence.

ADDITIONAL FOR MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Uses effective interpersonal skills, including listening, as indispensable performance management tools.
  • Uses coaching and consulting skills to encourage exceptional performance.
  • Helps others to think differently and bigger.
  • Actively listens to the concerns of employees regarding issues such as organizational changes, quality of work life and other issues that might cause employees worry or stress.
  • Skillfully probes and asks questions that help others reflect and create insight.
  • Ensures mutual understanding of goals and performance expectations.
  • Provides reinforcing coaching to employees to maintain performance.
  • Provides redirecting coaching to employees with performance issues in a way that maintains a positive relationship.
  • Provides feedback that is specific, candid, timely, focused on the future and fair.
  • Gains commitment from others for improvement and performance.
  • Provides fair, equitable, and consistent discipline, never resorting to inappropriate behavior or humiliating employees.
  • Spots potential conflicts and brings issues into the open and helps deescalate them.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVE LEADERS:

  • Creates broad ownership of the vision throughout the organization, engendering energy and engagement to help sustain it.
  • Defines a compelling and tangible vision for the future of the organization.
  • Provides structure and information that helps employees and organizational units react to new demands and circumstances by employing existing resources to fulfill new mandates.
  • Ensures that a clear understanding of client needs is central to decision-making and service delivery.
  • Uses a systems approach to make policy and program decisions which are aligned with the needs of the public.
  • Communicates the vision to all stakeholders in a way they can relate to.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the role of political leadership and other external stakeholders.
  • Implements long-term agency goals which keep employees involved and committed.
  • Develops integrated, pragmatic, process solutions which cross traditional department boundaries and which foster agency-wide and “enterprise-wide” consistency and cooperation.
  • Establishes communications processes within the organization which enable greater recognition of common issues and which foster the organization’s ability to address these collaboratively.

 

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