I challenge you to find a well written job description for management, sales, marketing and even IT positions that doesn’t mention the importance of having strong interpersonal skills as a pre-requisite. But as I continue to ask what those skills/competencies consist of, too frequently folks struggle with a comprehensive response. And to a certain degree they even have difficulty explaining why these competencies are important. So I would like to shed some light on both of these issues – why one needs them, what they really consist of and how we can measure them.


In your personal or business life your ability to interact with others may be a big differentiator in how successful you are. Frequently referred to as interpersonal or soft skills, one’s ability to communicate effectively, handle conflicts, sense and respond to others needs and diplomatically persuade others to your point of view are critical behavioral competencies. While in most jobs it is essential that you have a pre-determined degree of knowledge, technical expertise and skill, without interpersonal skills you certainly will struggle with those all-important relationships. These struggles can negatively impact your career as well as your ability to function as part of a team. Most jobs today require that you be able to engage others, both internally and externally and it’s your social skills that can make all the difference.

As the job market continues to progress, our multi-generational workforce and dramatic changes in technology will continue to result in the creation of different kinds of jobs. One’s ability to solve problems, make critical decisions, communicate effectively – verbally and non-verbally and manage diverse working relationships will require that candidates and employees strengthen their interpersonal skills. Whether we are focused on executive or management positions, customer facing jobs, operational positions or creative IT jobs –the people skills that are so difficult to define and develop are becoming increasingly more vital. 


Whenever we want to manage behavioral change we first have to measure the attributes we want to manage or coach. And while we can identify specific traits and competencies it is important to note that individual traits alone do not tell the whole story. If we can identify traits that are either gentile or dynamic and assess the degree of balance that exists between them we are able to relate these traits to how effectively one interacts with others. Measuring one’s ability to function as a productive team member as well as the degree of behavioral versatility they possess is critical information when considering a candidate for a job as well as how you design an individualized coaching strategy for an existing employee. And keep in mind that if we are attempting to change our own behavior or coaching an employee, we must first begin with self-awareness.

Based on extensive research and the need to focus on developing interpersonal skills,  Harrison Assessments™  has identified a range of traits and competencies that represent one’s interpersonal skillswhich can easily be measured. These competencies include both essential and desirable traits:

  • Diplomatic – the tendency to state things in a tactful manner
  • Helpful – the tendency to respond to other’s needs and to assist or support others to achieve their goals
  • Optimistic – the tendency to believe the future will be positive
  • Outgoing – the tendency to be socially extroverted and the enjoyment of meeting new people
  • Assertive – the tendency to put forward personal wants and needs
  • Influencing – the tendency to try to persuade others
  • Self-acceptance – the tendency to like oneself
  • Self-improvement – the tendency to attempt to develop or better oneself
  • Frank – the tendency to be straightforward, direct, to the point and forthright
  • Warmth and empathy – the tendency to express positive feelings  and affinity towards others
  • Tolerance of bluntness – the level of comfort related to receiving abrupt or frank communications
  • Flexible -  the tendency to easily adapt to change
  • Collaborative – the tendency to collaborate with others when making decisions
  • Open-reflective – the tendency to reflect on many different viewpoints
  • Manages stress – the tendency to deal effectively with strain and difficulty when it occurs
  • Relaxed – the tendency to fell at ease or calm while working

In addition they have identified traits that should be avoided when interpersonal skills are important:

  • Blunt – the tendency to be frank while lacking diplomacy or tact
  • Defensive – the tendency to focus on self-acceptance while avoiding self-improvement
  • Dogmatic – the tendency to be certain of one’s own opinions while at the same time not open to different ideas
  • Harsh – the tendency to be overly strict or punitive when enforcing rules and procedures
  • Dominating – the tendency to be assertive with one’s own needs while failing to respond to other people’s needs
  • Permissive – the tendency to be overly empathetic, failing to enforce necessary rules or make necessary corrections to subordinate’s behavior
  • Authoritative – the tendency to make decisions without collaborating with others

Each of the traits described above play an integral part in how an individual will build and maintain relationships and work as a creative contributor to a team.


So how can we actually assess all of these traits and competencies so that we can predict an individuals’ degree of interpersonal skills? The SmartQuestionnaire™ designed by  Harrison Assessments™  measures more than 150 traits, competencies, work preferences and interests. The questionnaire is administered on-line in less than 30 minutes. Utilizing cross-referencing technology, it provides the equivalent amount of information of 2700 multiple choice questions and the questionnaire has a built-in lie prevention system that ensures test validity and consistency. By identifying the critical traits related to one’s interpersonal skills and creating a behavioral competency template,  Harrison Assessments™ can predict an individual’s strengths and challenges related to their degree of interpersonal skills. Consider how valuable this information could be when recruiting, hiring or developing your valuable employees.

If you are interested in learning about your own interpersonal skills; use this link http://www.peakfocuscoach.com/product/interpersonalskills and follow the directions.

Or if you would like more information about how to more effectively identify and assess your all-important interpersonal skills, contact Jerry Scher at [email protected] or 404-931-9291.  For information about Harrison Assessments™ – the highly acclaimed assessment technology – visit http://peakfocus.harrisonassessments.com/index.html

Stay tuned to this continual series – as we continue to focus the challenges of building an effective team.