People Skills without This Are Ineffective

Without love and respect, people skills are limited – and so is leadership effectiveness.

I’ve been reminded of this lately as I’ve coached some extremely smart, results-oriented senior executives who want to improve their people skills. Under pressure, these leaders, like most of the rest of us, can tend to see and treat people like objects (possessions), vehicles (means of getting things done) or obstacles (to my goals.) And it’s no surprise that people sense this from them and from us. And employee engagement, motivation, influence, loyalty, and productivity takes a hit.

I was also recently reminded of this when I heard an excerpt from one of the most famous ‘love letters’ of all time, written by an extremely successful and influential 1st century leader. You may have heard it at a wedding (or 2 or 3 or 10), although it wasn’t originally intended just for couples.

If this 1st century author was invited to give the opening remarks at a leadership development or emotional intelligence seminar today, here’s what he might have to say to us:

“I may know 5 languages, have an IQ of 150, and graduate first in my class from the top business school. I may speak regularly to huge audiences and to top executives. But if I don’t care about people in my work, I am like a noisy copy machine. People only listen to me because they have to listen.

I may have the sharpest strategic thinking ability in the industry, predict future market trends with clarity and confidence, and have confidence and optimism out the wazoo. But if I don’t care about people, I am worthless. I add no true value.

I may be a model corporate citizen and give all I own to a foundation that helps the needy. I may even volunteer regularly at a soup kitchen in a rough neighborhood. But if I don’t genuinely care about people, I get no credit for this stuff.

Caring means you’re patient – even when people underperform and disappoint you, even when your boss is breathing down your neck. It means you treat people with kindness even when you doubt you will get anything in return. You don’t get jealous when others are promoted and are recognized. You don’t focus on trying to make yourself look better than them. When you care about people, you are not cocky about your ability or achievements. You care about others’ aspirations, agendas and accomplishments – not just your own. You help them succeed, and you celebrate when they do.

When you are truly concerned about people in your work, you aren’t rude – even with junior colleagues and even when they mess up and you look bad. You don’t have a short fuse. And when you do get mad, you don’t stay mad. You don’t hold grudges; you give people second chances.

When you care about people, you watch out for them. You give people the benefit of the doubt. You want what is best for them. You believe in them. When you really care, you don’t give up on them.” (Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, looooose paraphrase)

Would people at work say you care about them?

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Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. He helps leaders and their organizations achieve effective relationships and results that matter. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr