Organizations that focus strongly on interpersonal skills learning are on average 27 percent more productive and enjoy 40 percent higher revenue growth than their competitors, according to a recent study by Accenture.
To help companies leverage the inherent value in employees’ work styles, the Tracom Group developed the Social Style Model, a tool for understanding basic behaviors and their impact on others, and for building interpersonal skills in business settings.
Tracom’s Social Style Model divides human behavior into two categories: assertiveness and responsiveness.
Assertiveness refers to the degree to which a person “asks” vs. “tells” during social interactions. The example on the company Web site is: “Do you quietly ask your colleagues, ‘Would you like to go to lunch?’ or loudly announce, ‘Let’s go to lunch!’?”
Contrarily, responsiveness refers to the degree to which a person is introverted vs. extroverted.
“If you’re angry, do you keep it to yourself or let everyone know how you feel?” the Web site asks.
These components taken together can produce four possible combinations, or four social styles, according to Tracom:
• Analytical (Ask Assertive and Control Responsive): An analytical worker is “serious, exacting, logical” and “values accuracy and facts.”
• Driving (Tell Assertive and Control Responsive): A driving person is “independent, practical, formal” and “values actions and results.”
• Expressive (Tell Assertive and Emote Responsive): An expressive employee is “animated, forceful, impulsive” and “values approval and spontaneity.”
• Amiable (Ask Assertive and Emote Responsive): An amiable co-worker is “dependable, open, supportive” and “values security and relationships.”
Based on these personality types, employees are taught to recognize their own work styles and those of others.
Sean Essex, director of marketing for Tracom, said the company recently conducted a study that cross-referenced managers’ abilities to perform organization-specific tasks — such as working in a team, overcoming conflict or integrating new information — with their interpersonal skills.
“Even the most isolated task — whether that’s accounting or working at a computer — the interpersonal skills do play in [employees’] overall productivity,” Essex said. “And organizations recognize that.”
However, a large part of the success of people with good interpersonal skills is versatility: the ability to adapt one’s behavior to better work with others. In many cases, however, employees are not in tune with their own abilities. Tracom research found that only a quarter of people with “very low” versatility rated themselves as “very low,” with more than 40 percent of those with very low versatility rating themselves substantially higher.
Employees must not only have the ability to recognize their own work styles and those of others but be willing to change and adapt.
That said, Essex said he’s seen a shift away from general interpersonal skills training and finds more organizations focusing on task-specific training. Learning therefore is tailored to specific job roles, such as sales, or specific organizational tasks, such as managing conflict or working in teams.
In any case, it’s important for employees to understand that there are no “good” or “bad” social styles and that all have strengths and weaknesses, according to Tracom’s Web site.
“We all have characteristics of each style, and the categories are not absolute,” the site states.