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Leadership

Interpersonal Skills Become Even More Important as You Advance in Your Career

By John Almond - April 25, 2013

(Fourth in a series)

As you advance in your career as a public school administrator, interpersonal skills become even more important. For example, as you move from a site level position to a district level job, the number of stakeholders with whom you interact typically rises dramatically. As a result, such goals as relationship building and communication become even more difficult to accomplish, and yet these interpersonal skills often determine your success as a leader.

Several techniques that help build trust and relationships revolve around communication. You have to continually communicate your progress toward reaching the district’s goals and objectives and point out how the efforts of all employees are improving results. People need to know that their efforts are making a difference.

You also must be comfortable communicating changes within the organization since, as we all know, change is a constant in our profession. Some approaches to consider as you communicate with your diverse stakeholders are as follows:

  1. Learn to listen. Take time to listen carefully to what others are saying through both their verbal and non-verbal communication.
  2. Choose your words carefully. In order to avoid being misunderstood, seek feedback to ensure that your message has been understood.
  3. Relax. When we are anxious or impatient, we tend to talk more quickly and with less clarity.
  4. Clarify. Show an interest in the people with whom you are speaking. Ask questions and seek feedback on any points that could be easily misunderstood.
  5. Be positive. Try to remain positive and cheerful. People are far more likely to be drawn to you if you can maintain a positive attitude.
  6. Empathize. Understand that other people may have different points of view. You may learn something from them while you gain their respect and trust.
  7. Understand stress. Although some degree of stress is not always bad, learning how to manage that stress in yourself and others is an important interpersonal skill.
  8. Learn to be assertive. You should aim to be neither passive nor aggressive. Being assertive is about expressing your feelings and beliefs in a way that others can understand and respect.
  9. Reflect and improve. Think about previous conversations and other interpersonal interactions and try to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes.

Finally, recognize that building trust and relationships does not happen overnight. As you advance in your career and need to deal with an increased number of stakeholders, it is important to recognize that developing and maintaining your interpersonal skills will require time, patience, and a positive outlook.

(To read the first article in this series, click here.)
(To read the second article in this series, click here.)
(To read the third article in this series, click here.)

Editor's Note:  John Almond is a Senior Advisor with the educational consulting firm Total School Solutions (TSS).