In my last post, I began a series of four posts reflecting on the skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur. In this second post, I focus on the seven core interpersonal skills and abilities that all successful entrepreneurs need to drive their enterprises.
As a successful entrepreneur, you’ll have to work in close collaboration with people. You will deal with them on all sides and in different ways. It is, therefore, critical to developing your relationships with them be it on your team, with your customers, suppliers, and stakeholders, and potentially investors.
Some people might appear more gifted than others when it comes to interpersonal expertise, but I know from coaching and mentoring many people over the years that you can develop, learn and improve it. As I noted in my last post, you start with self-awareness. The more you learn about yourself, the more you can improve, the better chance you have of growing excellent interpersonal skills.
In my experience. these are the seven critical interpersonal skills any emerging and developing entrepreneur requires:
How well are you motivated to do what is needed to drive your idea or your passion? Are you a self-starter, or do you need others to take you? I talked with a colleague this week, whose employment contract ends in December. I asked what plans she had for a new job, and she mentioned that friends were encouraging her to go free-lance. In the same conversation she also freely admitted she was lazy. Believe me, being lazy and being an entrepreneur is an oxymoron!
What is your ethical base? How much do you live your principles and values? How readily do you share those values and ensure those around you clearly understand, respect and observe them? Do you treat people with respect, fairness, integrity and honesty?
My upbringing by a Presbyterian mother with strong values and a passion for change for the better and a Mackem father who loved history, books and practical problem solving, provided a fantastic model for embedding and practising a strong ethical base. My approach is often favourably remarked. I have honed and fine-tuned my approach over the years, but my platform remains politeness, common courtesy, and an openness to all.
In the modern day, can you communicate across all media? Are your verbal skills polished? Do you write fluently and concisely? More importantly, can you apply these same skills across a range of social media? Are you not only familiar with those media, but also comfortable in using them? Do you know which media will work for your and your enterprise?
I have always been an articulate and erudite communicator, both verbally and in writing. I have a grammar school education and an abiding passion for reading to thank for that. However, my son made my first website out of a WordPress blog in Christmas 2010. He urged me to take up social media and to blog too, so that I was ‘visible’ in a crowded marketplace, I was just 58 years old. Social media was a different planet altogether. Six years on, through an organic growth process, I use various social media channels fluently and love to engage them. I also learn brilliantly from them.
Remember, the core of a successful entrepreneur, wherever they are, is selling their vision of the future to a range of interested parties. And we live in a global marketplace! Excellent communication has never been more vital.
I am a huge advocate and practitioner of positive dialogue. It’s about mutual, satisfactory understanding through the interchange of ideas, views and positions. It’s about the flow of meaning. It’s about adding value to mutual understanding. It’s about avoiding polarisation, and not stifling conflicting or different points of view.
However, it is mostly about active listening, about listening with an empathetic ear.
Active listening is hearing what other people are saying, not waiting for your opportunity to speak more. It is also about taking what you hear and doing something positively with it. Building deep relationships with a range of people has at its core listening actively. And you will need those contacts to drive a successful enterprise.
- Emotional Intelligence
“Great leadership works through emotions. If leaders fail in this primal task of driving emotions in the right direction, nothing they do will work as well as it could or should.”
So said Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee in their seminal work in 2002, Primal Leadership: realizing the power of emotional intelligence.
The study of neurogenesis – the growth of brain cells, and their use for learning, continues apace and has revolutionised thinking about how we can grow and develop. I am fascinated by this and other linked research.
I believe myself to be emotionally intelligent and feedback from many people over the years suggest this is the case. That is why I remain wedded to the view that being authentic is at its core about managing your emotions and those of others around you. The accepted view is that the higher your Emotional Intelligence score, the easier it is for you to do this and work with others. The good news is that it is possible to improve your score.
Two effective ways are one, to become more intentional, drawing on the motivational force of your prefrontal lobes; and two, become more practical. According to Goleman, we all have acquired bad habits that replacing. Becoming more practical, focusing on simple, repeatable steps that model a better practice, helps us to remove those bad habits and cement better habits.
I find it remarkable that as long as I have worked in various sectors, I have met only a few people who have had formal training in this skill set. What most people call negotiation, in my experience, is no more than a form of horse trading, akin to crude bargainings, like selling your house, car or some other possession.
Proper negotiation is about truly valuing the other party and each understanding the other’s position. It is about ensuring that you each walk away from the negotiation feeling you have gained, and although this may involve compromise, you do not feel oppressed or cheated in the process.
When I was working for Hereford and Worcester County Council Youth Service many years ago, they invested in negotiation skills training for all senior and middle managers. It was one of the best courses I ever attended and the lessons I learned then have served me well ever since.
So, for the sake of successful enterprises, be sure to seek out some negotiation training.
Many of the above skills and abilities are intrinsic to being a successful leader, and entrepreneur. However, are you able to lead yourself? Leadership begins within you, and so your starting point should be a reflection of what you know, what you bring, and how you demonstrate that leadership?
That leadership will come from different learning, new knowledge, broad experience, and a range of skills, abilities and knowledge that you will grow as you develop. It should enable you to lead and motivate others. It should also allow you to delegate work to others, to provide you with the opportunity to deal with more strategic and developmental matters.
In the summer of 1970, I failed to secure an officer candidate opportunity for the Royal Military Academy on the last day of the selection process. In August 1996, I became Head of the Sunderland City Council Youth Service. In April 2015, I published my first co-authored book on leadership, and I am now writing my first solo book on leadership. Those small examples demonstrate that leadership is a journey. It is about doing, not about titles. It is most of all about learning.
I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching you or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +447958765972. I am always happy to listen and ready to help.
Thank you for reading.