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The Winning Edge - Interpersonal Skills

Updated: May 22, 2021

Interpersonal skills are the life skills we use every day to communicate with other people. In the business world, these skills are known as Soft skills or people skills. While dealing with people, good interpersonal skills help get positive and healthy results. People who work on developing good interpersonal skills are usually more successful, both in their personal and professional lives. Such people are really great to work with. In the business world, we deal with different people under different situations. These dealings initially start within organization. It then extents to the world outside.

To some people, Soft skills come easily. Sales guys are normally good at this. If not, they will never be able to make a success of their jobs. HR guys are another set of people, to whom people skills come naturally. Professionals with good soft skills find themselves establishing a good net-work, which stands them in good stead in the long run.

It is said, “Net-working is the key to personal success and it is an impetus for organizational success”. A person who has established a good network within the organization finds it easy to establish a network outside the company too and easily vends his way through.I’ll tell you my own experience. After spending a couple of years in Servicing, I was on to my first Sales job. I was lucky to get friendly with a great bloke, by the name Dilip Savur. Early on, he advised me. He said, “Look, apart from your seniors and peers, there are a few others with whom you need to get pally”. I was wondering who? He said, “Your life will be much easier, if you are on -back-slapping terms with the Commercial assistant and the Accounts guy. And he said, don’t forget the office peon.” I asked myself, “Office peon?” Anyway, I decided to heed his advice. His words have proved prophetic.

Those were the good old days. Our office would close at five in the evening. By four thirty, most guys, except the sales guys are ready to call it a day. Few days into the job and there was a call to one of my senior colleagues from a dealer for urgently supplying few items. With a resigned look, he approached the Commercial assistant. She looked at her watch. It was past four thirty pm. pointing to her in-tray, she said, “Just leave it there.” He did make a feeble attempt, on the urgency of the case but to no avail. Cursing under his breath, he went back to his chair and told the dealer, ‘Sorry mate, you are late for the day.” Well, that’s when I realized the importance of Net-working. I decided then and there, that I better get close enough to these guys. Not just these blokes, but with all those of whom I’m likely to deal regularly in future.

Being in sales, my charm offensive helped and I never had a problem approaching these guys. Each time the dealer approached me with an urgent request, I was able to manage. And, end of the month, it was payback time- with the dealers. When I approached them for orders, they just couldn’t say “No.”

Years later, I heard a Management guru say, “Internal selling, meaning selling within one’s own organization is tougher than selling outside to prospects and clients”. And he said, it’s a global phenomenon. Most people in the audience nodded in agreement. To me, it took time to sink in. Because I rarely had this problem. So in the business world, the first thing one needs to do in a new place is to employ one’s interpersonal skill and establish the Net-work. Otherwise, you’ll be re-inventing the wheel.

OK, you may now want to know, what the advice of the peon was all about. Did it really help?

It will be an understatement if I answered in the negative. Apart from the normal errands and odd jobs he did for me, one incident I will never forget. It was a Saturday. And Saturdays were half-days. We closed by 12.30 noon. It was almost the day end. Everyone had packed to check out. Normally, nobody stayed beyond 1 pm. And there was a reason too. The boss had once said. “If you work late, it means, either, you are overworked and need help. Or else, you are inefficient.” But this Saturday was different. I was heading for a week’s vacation and some lose ends needed tying up. The peon had asked me if I needed something. When I told him No, he said his customary “Bye” and left.

I stayed back ---and I was done by 2 pm. I felt famished and a bit tired too. My office was on the 5th floor. I got out. Didn’t see anybody around. I locked the door and got into lift and headed down. It was an automatic lift and such lifts were few those days. -- A second or two later, the lift stopped and the lights went off. A power outage? Oh, at this time. No problem, we had a standby Gen-set. And so I waited. A minute went by. Then two, three, four and the wait was getting longer. It was getting a bit too long. I was getting impatient. I called out but then realized that nobody is likely to be around. Was I stuck?

Suddenly it dawned on me that we had received a circular. It was something to do with “Work, life balance.” The need to leave office on time and head home after work. To spend quality time with your family etc. I was a bachelor and away from home. So I had not bothered. But I vaguely remembered something about the power to all the floors being shut down and all that. I started banging on the sides of the Lift and shouting out loud. “Hello, I’m stuck. Hello I’m stuck in the lift, Hello.” Nothing happened.

By now, panic was setting in. I was supposed to be a cool guy. But no more. I thought to myself, all that thing about being cool was ok in theory. But when reality strikes, it’s different. It’s really different. I sat down on the floor of the lift but continued banging the sides. I told myself, not to worry. I may be stuck for some time, but my hostel friends will come looking for me. Then I panicked again. Today was a Saturday and they knew I was leaving for Bangalore. Although they knew it was by the night train, why should they come and search for me in my office. After all, I always left office on time. I was nearly in tears. “Hold on. Hold on”, I remember telling myself loudly. And then I just remembered what my dad always told me. “When in distress, pray to God Almighty.” I prayed loudly. It was after a long, long time. I prayed. I prayed again and again.

Suddenly, the lights came on and the lift started. Was it a miracle? Was it that God answered my prayers? Well, once the problem is over, all these questions just melt away. Sometime later, the lift stopped at the basement and when the door opened, there was the watchman smiling at me. He said, “the peon had told me that you were working late and to keep an eye.” Well, well, well. There you are. I haven’t still revealed you his name? The peon’s name was Unni.

Among the professional advice I got in my career, People skills & Net-working are right up there at the top.

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