People skills – taking your skills to the next level

Did you know 85% of job success comes from having well-developed people skills (according to research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center)? We spend up to 80% of our day engaging in some form of communication but we seem to place more focus on technical skills and the daily to-do list that we’re faced with. Effective people skills are a must-have in the workplace.

Strong people skills create a culture of positivity, creativity, open communication, and healthy conflict resolution. These skills will improve relationships with colleagues and customers, improve your problem-solving skills, reduce unnecessary conflict, promote active listening, and simply create a greater level of happiness among all employees. Here are some points to consider and ways to shift your credit union culture for the better.

What happens if your credit union doesn’t have strong people skills?

  • Conflict resolution becomes challenging and often leads to unresolved resentment. 
  • Gossip and negativity become a common method of communication. 
  • Stress levels are increased because employees don’t reach out when problems arise. 
  • Job satisfaction is much lower when communication is unpredictable and inconsistent. 
  • Employees feel like “just a number” and not important to the credit union. 
  • Creativity is stifled and new ideas are not discussed. 
  • Job errors are much higher when employees don’t feel supported by open communication.

What are the most critical action steps to help improve people skills within your credit union?

  • Hire a trainer that has exceptional people skills, strong emotional intelligence, and the ability to inspire growth, change, and accountability. 
  • Host weekly/monthly training sessions with your employees and leaders to ensure consistency. Everyone has a different starting point so “meet them where they’re at” and keep building on their skills. 
  • Create training materials for new hires and make this a central area of focus. Design topics on people skills, communication, emotional intelligence, stress management, and conflict resolution.
  • Use a variety of different methods to reiterate the content: videos, articles, training modules, continued education, and small group meetings.
  • Create a culture of “assuming positive intent” and ask questions to better understand their needs.
  • Be empathetic, build rapport, and show genuine interest in others.
  • Always look for ways to improve and get better. This is an ongoing journey of growth.
  • Express your sincere gratitude for the unique strengths that your team members bring to the credit union.
  • As leaders, you need to inspire your team members, share your vulnerabilities, admit your mistakes, and be a role model for what you’d like to see in your credit union.

Even if you don’t have a formal trainer or training program, you can still focus on all the other items. Consistency is key. The best place to start is with yourself. Your actions matter. Everyone around you will take notice when you’re positive, honest, authentic, and kind to others. They will also notice when you’re grumpy, unpredictable, unapproachable, and inconsistent. Make the choice to be the positive change that you wish to see in your credit union regardless of your job title. You have influence and the ability to make significant changes.

How do you know if you’re making progress and improvements?

  • Your colleagues will start to freely share what’s on their mind in a helpful and constructive manner. 
  • Creativity and new ideas are freely shared among the group. 
  • Constructive conflict is encouraged because everyone knows that it’s necessary for growth.
  • Leaders and employees are comfortable sharing their mistakes to help others grow. 
  • Information is freely shared and exchanged because there is an understanding that we’re “all in this together”. 
  • People will seek ways to ensure that others are recognized for their unique contributions. 
  • Team unity and bonds are strong even when challenges arise. 
  • Honest feedback is easily shared (even when it’s hard) because there is a strong sense of commitment to one another. 

Do we miss our mark sometimes? Absolutely, because we’re all human. But once these skills are engrained in your culture, it makes everything run so much smoother. As your people skills improve, others will take notice and follow suit. Having strong people skills changes every aspect of your life and creates a sense of peace, security, and happiness for those around you!

Kate Stumbaugh

Kate Stumbaugh

LSI’s Director of Training & Development, Kate Stumbaugh has put together a great educational article for CUs about developing people skills. Kate has been with LSI for 27 years ... Details