OK, I can’t resist; I have to talk about American politics for just a second. The behaviours of some of these top people are quite astonishing to me. President Trump and his tawdry dalliances with lowlifes; Hillary Clinton and her inability to say she lost fair and square; Joe Biden and his creepy hugs and head-nuzzling habits. Or how about Canada’s own Justin Trudeau and his “Kokanee gropes” and the bullying of women in his cabinet?
This really isn’t about politics, but just underscores this truism:
The higher you go in an organization, the more your problems are behavioual.
This is true, especially in senior management/leadership roles. This is because (mostly) everyone who gets to the table in these positions is capable. None of the aforementioned people lacks in motivation or ambition or brains. They’ve achieved the very pinnacles of success in their organizations because they have many strengths and competencies desirable in their field. But the higher they rise, the more their personality quirks and personal habits stand out, and the more their job competencies recede from view.
Who would you rather hire as your sales manager: A brilliant killer salesperson who has an off-the-chart IQ and knocks the lights out in personal results but can’t get along with anyone else, or a fine salesperson who has the trust and respect of the team? Would you even have to think about this choice?
When you interview smart successful people to work for you, you judge them on behavioral criteria, not on competence. Think choosing a doctor, a financial advisor, a lawyer, or an accountant. You know/assume they’re smart, but you want more. You also want them to have good bedside manner, be a good listener, understand your needs or have good manners.
Those who don’t demonstrate these soft skills get bypassed by you for someone who does. Maybe the person who does have better soft skills is less capable than their ruder, smarter colleagues. You likely don’t care. You don’t know; you can’t know. You’re not capable of judging their competence.
So, the higher your rise, the more you must pay attention to developing your soft skills. Soft skills differentiate the competent from the really successful. Your career success will be determined by how good (or bad) they are.
If you want to go places, work on this area. In the end, the ‘hard’ stuff is easy; the ‘soft’ stuff is hard, and what matters most.