Teamwork Training

Employees Get Along When they Have These 6 Interpersonal Skills

Teamwork depends on employees having and using the right set of interpersonal skills.

Even though your employees may have their hearts in the right place. All their good intentions won’t help if they are missing the necessary interpersonal skills.

While you may believe that people have (or should have) these skills, my experience suggests otherwise.

Yes, people have vague notions about what they are supposed to do. But they don’t put those ideas into practice because they aren’t confident about their abilities.

Teach interpersonal skills

The good new is that skills can be taught and then reinforced. Are you willing to help them reach their potential?

Not long ago a workshop participant came up to me afterwards and told me that she liked what I presented, but didn’t think it would have much effect.

Her suggestion was to add more role playing and practice to the session so that people can actually try out the ideas and receive some expert feedback.

I agreed with her. Completely.

That day I was delivering another company’s materials. The sessions I build are different. They are all about the practice. I want people to leave confident that they understand how to apply what they’ve learned in tough circumstances. They need skills they can draw on when it counts.

There are many skills, that when well-practiced, support teamwork. Here are six that must be on your list.

1. Listening

Listening skills

To have any chance for success, team members must understand one another. Listening is the skill that most helps people do that.

While listening doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, it is. In a work environment filled with distractions, people have a difficult time tuning in and demonstrating that they are listening.

2. Expressing wants and needs


Many problems at work (and at home) can be summed up as “My co-workers aren’t living up to my expectations.” The problem is that the coworker may well be clueless about those expectations because you never clearly and directly said what you wanted.

There are four reasons we don’t communicate wants and needs:

  1. We don’t believe it’s right to ask others for what we want.
  2. We think others already know what we want.
  3. We don’t know how to ask in a way that will be clearly understood.
  4. We are afraid they might say “No” to our request.

About 80% of workplace relationship problems would disappear if team members would just start making their needs known to one another. The skill is known as assertiveness.

3. Providing feedback

Most of us want to do a good job. We want to be liked and respected by our coworkers.

The reality is that sometimes we don’t do a good job and have coworkers who are mad at us. The question is whether or not we know it.

If we are to make the necessary adjustments, we need to be aware of how we are doing. That requires feedback.

We need people who are willing to tell us whether we are on track. Ideally they not only have the will to share the feedback, but also the skills to do it in a manner that produces the desired result.

4. Receiving feedback


This skill has only recently been added to my list because when I’ve asked employees what keeps them from delivering feedback to their coworkers, they tell me they are afraid of the response.

For all the effort I’ve put into helping people deliver feedback, I’ve come to believe that the more effort should be focused on the other end for the communication process. Employees need to be able to hear a tough message and respond professionally.

I’ve heard far too many tales of responses that justify the fear.

5. Conflict resolution

conflict resolution

People at work have different wants, needs, preferences, goals, styles, and skills. All this diversity almost certainly leads to disagreement.

Employees that succeed aren’t the ones who avoid conflict, but rather those who recognize it and have the skills required for engaging in conversations that lead to positive resolutions.

There are proven processes and techniques for resolving conflicts. Do your employees use them?

6. Empathy

This is the ability to connect with people on an emotional level. It’s the appreciation for another person’s feelings and circumstances.

This deepened sense of understanding and connection between people strengthens the relationship.

Imagine working with people who were loaded with empathy.

Develop your plan

If building a better team is on your to-do list, start by helping your employees improve their relationship skills.

We would like to be your partners in this effort. We can create and deliver hands-on sessions that will change behaviors.

Let’s start a conversation about the skill building needs you see within your organization.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce is a speaker, consultant, writer, facilitator and coach. Since 1996 he's helped workplace teams improve performance.