We've all heard it before, "Nice guys finish last." Although no curriculum (that I'm aware of) has ever suggested the theory, many still operate under the misconception that they have to be abrasive to get results.

According to a VitalSmarts study, a corporate training and leadership development firm, which examined 1,650 promotions, 92 percent of the respondents said poor interpersonal skills hinder progression. The same research revealed that strong interpersonal skills combined with substantial contributions and caring about your organization are the three predictors of advancement.

Whereas contributions and caring about your organization are easier to see the importance of, interpersonal skills are a bit fuzzier. In short, interpersonal skills are an individual's ability to interact and get along with others while simultaneously achieving business goals.

Although there are multiple ways to sharpen and hone these skills, the study suggested four interpersonal strategies to increase your effectiveness as a leader:

1. Manage your emotions.

Work is stressful, but that doesn't give anyone an excuse to treat people poorly. Highly effective leaders can recognize and diffuse stressful feelings before they boil-over and affect their judgment. They also separate employees from the issues and objectively try to understand the other person's viewpoint -- even if they disagree.

2. Help others around you feel secure.

As a leader, it's less about what you say and more about how you say it. Now, I'm not suggesting that you can't be honest. That would be another issue. What I'm saying is that being honest doesn't mean that you can't be respectful.

Particularly in situations where managers have to provide guidance or constructive criticism, being able to set a compassionate tone is essential to helping others feel safe. When people feel supported, they'll trust your judgment and listen to your advice. If not, their defenses will prevent any valuable feedback from getting in.

3. Focus only on the facts.

Unfounded biases have a way of sneaking themselves into decisions. These preconceived ideas can skew our judgments and unintentionally create feelings of animosity and resistance.

It's important for leaders to look at situations in factual terms and resist the temptation to make snap decisions if they want to be effective. If managers can remove negative labels, focus on the facts and remain objective, then they'll earn the respect of those around them.

4. Encourage an open dialog.

Unless you're at a TEDTalk, monologues are a tough way to find consensus and elicit feedback. Instead, effective leaders encourage open dialog and aggregate multiple viewpoints to come to informed decisions. Plus, you're more likely to be heard by others if you're the first one to listen.

In a world driven by data and metrics, it's easy to be swayed into thinking that soft-skills don't matter. Let's debunk the age-old myth about "nice guys" and prove that altruism is an important factor to effective leadership.

Published on: Aug 15, 2017