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Friday, November 26, 2004

Nice Guys Can Finish First

Fastcompany has published an excellent article written by Marshall Goldsmith titled Your people skills become more important the higher you go -- so behave yourself! Excerpts from this good article:

Imagine a world where technical skills, educational pedigrees, even professional achievements and track records no longer matter. Everyone is blessed with equal brains and talent. Everyone is highly skilled, well educated at the same school, and locked in a dead heat of accomplishment, posting exactly the same "lifetime batting average." Now, imagine that you lead an organization in this world. How would you hire people? How would you decide whom to promote and whom to cast aside? Chances are you would start paying very close attention to how people behave -- how they treat colleagues and clients, how they speak and listen in meetings, how well they extend the minor courtesies that either lubricate daily work life or create friction. We apply these behavioral criteria to almost any successful person, whether it's our CEO or our plumbing contractor. But sometimes we forget to apply them to ourselves. And in turn, we forget that our behavior may be holding us back.
All other things being equal, your people skills (or lack thereof) become more pronounced the higher up you go. In fact, even when all other things are not equal, your people skills often make the difference in how high you go. The candidate with superb people skills will win out every time, in large part because he will be able to hire people smarter than he is about money and he will be able to lead them. There's no guarantee that the brilliant number cruncher can do that now or any time in the foreseeable future.We all have certain attributes that helped us land our first job. These are the kinds of achievements that go on our resumes. But as we become more successful, those attributes recede into the background and more subtle traits emerge. It's not enough to be smart. You have to be smart -- and something else. At some point, you get the benefit of the doubt on skill issues. Not many people remember that Jack Welch has a PhD in chemical engineering. That's because none of the problems he encountered in his last 30 years at GE were in any way related to his skill at chemical titration or formulating plastics. When he was vying for the CEO job, the attributes holding him back were strictly behavioral: his brashness, his blunt language, his unwillingness to suffer fools. The soft behavioral skills came to the fore only after he delivered profits and ascended the GE ladder. That's when the GE board wanted to know if he could behave as a CEO.The data you can put on your resume are your interpersonal skills (which, for the purposes of this exercise, must be documented and authentic). What would they be?

- To be able to listen?
- To give proper recognition?
- To share - whether it's information or credit for a success?
- To stay calm when others panic?
- To make midcourse corrections?
- To accept responsibility?
- To admit a mistake?
- To defer to others, even (especially) those of lesser rank?
- To let someone else be right some of the time?
- To say thank you?
- To resist playing favorites?

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