EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) and the work of Daniel Goleman were highlighted in last month's article on Leadership. People skills are the soft skills that leaders must master as they tackle the management of people and teams and the creation of environments where people can do their best work. For these ascending leaders, it is no longer about demonstrating the IQ associated with technical skills and doing individual work but rather about utilizing EQ skills in the workplace.
Soft skills are behavior-based and require repetitive learning and reinforcement to change the attitudes that underlie the existing behaviors. This repetitive learning process results in a maturation of social skills and empathetic behavior. This maturation is possible as the imbedded attitudes are replaced with new attitudes to allow new behaviors that become a source of new self-awareness and self-management insights.
There is an inflection point where effective leaders must be able to become sufficiently proficient in "people skills" to render themselves capable of achieving their desired results. I propose that this occurs at about the mid-point as an individual moves into the Middle Management ranks. It is at this point that these individuals have tipped the balance and are firmly entrenched in addressing people issues over technical issues in their job responsibilities. The Middle Managers who can develop and become proficient in relevant soft people skills are the ones who will continue their trajectory into top management.
An interesting corollary discussion occurs for these middle managers at this point in their careers. Are they able to effectively diffuse the "Drama Triangle" of social interaction that often occurs in organizations? The Drama Triangle model was first described in studies by Stephen Karpman in 1968. The Drama Triangle describes three roles that individuals take on in a self-perpetuating cycle of social interaction: the Victim; the Villain; and the Hero.