Fundamental Interpersonal Skills Critical for Successful Workplace Leadership

Fundamental Interpersonal Skills Critical for Successful Workplace Leadership

Aug 11, 2021
  • Author:
    Dwaina Humphries, CPMSM
    Former VerityStream Employee
    Dwaina worked with VerityStream Consulting Team for over 2 years. She has over 30 years of prior experience as an MSP in a Multi-hospital CVO, as well as large and small hospital Medical Staff Offices.

Have you ever had to work with someone who lacks Interpersonal Skills? Someone who, no matter how often you smile at them, they never smile back? Never seem to be happy? Just can’t seem to satisfy them, no matter what you do? They just cannot seem to communicate with anyone. They don’t seem to empathize with anything that happens. They are always negative. They seem unable to work well on a team.

Interpersonal Skills and Emotional Intelligence are what employers are looking for these days. They are not necessarily looking for a high IQ. According to the book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, for executive level positions, emotional intelligence abilities are ranked in importance at 80-90%, while IQ and technical skills are ranked toward the bottom. These competencies tend to predict the best leadership skills, not necessarily competence in technical skills.

You may have noticed recently when going through your annual evaluations each year, that a section to rate your interpersonal skills was included. These skills include things such as communication, conflict management, empathy, leadership, listening, negotiation, positive attitude, and teamwork. Yes, these are all fairly subjective, but are critical to develop as we grow in our profession. How we interact and communicate with our team and others can have a positive effect on the outcomes our ultimate goals for our team and our organizations.

Cindy Daigle1

Cindy Daigle
VP of Medical Staff Credentialing
U.S. Renal Care

A little over a year ago, I met a person that I believe has learned to effectively use her interpersonal skills to her and her corporation’s advantage. In the short time I have known her, Cindy Daigle, VP of Medical Staff Credentialing at U.S. Renal Care, has moved from utilizing an external CVO to an in-house Credentialing Specialist model (and grew her team by double), added the responsibility of conducting primary source verifications and providing the medical staff applications to her team for processing, drafted and published pandemic Medical Staff Credentialing policies for her company, completed a substantive revision of the company’s Medical Staff Bylaws, all while successfully implementing CredentialStream for all 350 of their clinics. I recently asked her some questions to find out the secrets of her successful interpersonal skills.

Cindy, I’ve watched you stay calm and collected throughout your organization’s implementation of CredentialStream, no matter what challenges were thrown at you. How do you keep this positive attitude as a leader?

I believe you have to make a conscious choice to be a positive person. Things are going to go awry that are not in your control. What is in your control is how you respond to those things and how you message those things to others. While an implementation is a long and often stressful process, it is very important to keep your end goal in mind. The reason you are implementing a new system is because you want to offer better customer service, have a more powerful platform, or streamline and make your workflows more efficient. These are all great things!  When things begin to move off-course – it’s human nature to focus on what is going wrong so you have to remind yourself – this rough part is not a permanent situation – this is the work that you have to do to reach the great part!  I also believe that keeping a sense of humor is critical to the success of any long-term project. If you can laugh with your team – it is a bonding experience and also helps to keep things in perspective.

Your team seems to respect your opinion and value your knowledge. Where did you learn how to lead with empathy and successful communication?

I have had some incredible mentors in my career who had such a positive impact on my life. I have taken pieces of their management style or their philosophy and melded all of that great information into my own management style. I have had the good fortune to be entrusted with managing people for quite a long time now – and that is the way I approach it – someone has put their trust in me to ensure that a particular group of people and a particular department is successful. When you start from that point it allows you to be empathetic and lead with people first and then the work product will be successful. I approach management from the frame of reference of the employee’s point of view: What would I want to know in this situation? What do I have to offer in this situation? Does my manager find this valuable? Does my manager appreciate me and my contributions? I believe if you can clearly communicate those things to your staff – they will perform at the highest level.

What advice would you give other Medical Service Professionals who are dealing with individuals whose interpersonal skills are lacking? What are some tips and tricks to negotiation and conflict management that you use?

If you identify a deficiency in interpersonal skills in your staff, I believe the most effective way to help an employee improve in that area is modeling of the behaviors you wish to see and providing acknowledgment when you do see those positive interactions happening. I think you have to model the behavior in many ways – when you are leading a meeting, when you are assigning projects, when the team is interacting with internal and external customers, and especially when things are not going well – a difficult client interaction, an implementation issue, a doctor who is unhappy with your system. What you say as a leader is one thing, but what you do is what people actually remember.

What are the top interpersonal skills that you feel a leader should develop? What skills do you feel you use the most in guiding your team to be successful?

I believe that the top interpersonal skills that a leader should develop are collaboration, appreciation, transparency, and communication.

  1. Collaboration
  2. Implementing others’ ideas and creating shared ideas is so important. Whether it is staff sharing strategies where they had successful outcomes or times they were unsuccessful and what they learned from that – collaboration and sharing of ideas is key to long-term success.

  3. Appreciation
  4. Money is important, titles are important, but for most people – those two things are simply not enough if they are not truly valued and recognized for their unique contributions. As important as it is to verbalize your appreciation to your employees it’s equally important to tell your bosses great things about your employees. I have always believed that you should be a champion for your staff – help others shine and attain their career goals.

  5. Transparency
  6. Transparency is exceptionally important but may be the skill set that most managers struggle with the most in incorporating daily. You cannot expect your staff to win, if they have not been given all the rules of the game! If you openly share with your staff what is most important to you - then they know they don’t have to be perfect at everything -but certainly those items that you have highlighted are where they need to focus most to be successful.

  7. Communication
  8. I genuinely enjoy people. I think this is why I enjoy management so much! I know you always read or hear “communication is key,” but I think the statement should be expanded. The truth is clear, kind communication is key! Yes – you have to have difficult conversations as a manager, but they never have to be rude or unkind. Once again, if you are managing from a people first perspective, you’ll think about – how would I like this same message delivered to me? Your messaging is a 90% factor in the way people are going to respond to the message you are delivering. If you speak to others in a clear and kind manner –regardless of the subject matter – your interactions will be more pleasant and more productive.

I recently saw a quote that was attributed to Jesse Jackson, which says:

“Leaders must be tough enough to fight, tender enough to cry, human enough to make mistakes, humble enough to admit them, strong enough to absorb the pain, and resilient enough to bounce back and keep on moving.”

Even if you don’t happen to be a leader (yet!), I think this statement reflects what we all should keep in mind throughout our lives. Interpersonal skills are something that I think we all strive to improve all the time…either in how we deal with others, or how we handle our own emotions. I know I do!