11 Interpersonal Skills for Managers You Need To Master

Managers cannot forge a successful operation, project, or campaign without the work and loyalty of employees. But in a dynamic workplace, strictly managing on a surface level isn’t enough. You must become a leader, a shrewd negotiator, and a master of collaboration.

The ideas surrounding excellent management and leadership start with experience and training, but some skills require more attention than others. To foster a work environment of communication and cultivate connections between employees and managers, leaders must focus on interpersonal skills.

If communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence are lacking in your business, the answer could lie in interpersonal skills. Discover what they are, why you need them, and how they can transform your management and leadership skills for the better.

What Are Interpersonal Skills for Managers?

Woman practicing interpersonal skills during a team meeting

Also known as social skills or people skills, interpersonal skills are the vital link that enables managers to connect with employees on the same level. They include how managers interact, build relationships, inspire, and gain respect from employees. They’re linked more with soft skills than hard skills,

Interpersonal skills allow them to make constructive criticism, address persistent issues, give praise, and create meaning behind the tasks that each person does regularly. More than anything, they allow managers to understand the root causes and ideas behind employee behavior and motivation.

Through verbal and nonverbal communication, cooperation, active listening, problem-solving, and more, managers can stand on the same emotional and mental plane as their team members. Interpersonal skills for managers are more than just communicative ideas. They’re a holistic approach to a deeper understanding of each other as workers — and as individuals.

Why Are Interpersonal Skills for Managers Important?

Interpersonal skills aren’t the only soft skills vital to managers, but they can make a pronounced difference in the day-to-day lives of employees and managers themselves — even employees can benefit from interpersonal skills training. With a concerted approach to interpersonal skills, you elicit a sense of teamwork and build trust, which can make a huge difference in how your team approaches issues and workflow. That is to say — the importance of interpersonal skills cannot be understated.

For managers, an interpersonal skill set can solve many issues that arise over time. They can:

  • Address performance problems
  • Traverse the unexpected
  • Aid in conflict management and conflict resolution
  • Help you adjust your approach to individual employees
  • Solve problems that arise from a lack of communication skills — including verbal, written, and body language.
  • Create a positive attitude among employees
  • Act as a cornerstone for effective communication and active listening skills
  • Bolster your decision-making skills
  • Help you become a more effective manager and effective leader

Improvements in employee engagement and company culture can also benefit from strong interpersonal skills, especially as you learn more about your employees’ intentions and what makes them tick.

The Top 11 Interpersonal Skills for Managers

Two women having a discussion while one holds a clipboard

Interpersonal skills are soft skills — competencies not associated with technical skills. As such, they’re easily transferable to all industries and positions. Identifying interpersonal skills for managers is the first step toward employing them. Once you understand them, you’re more likely to place high importance on them and use them to advance your personal and professional development.

1. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence encompasses your ability to recognize, demonstrate, and control your emotions, as well as being privy to the emotions of others. It goes beyond verbal communication to understand the body language of others. Using eye contact in face-to-face situations, learning about facial expressions, expressing feelings with the correct verbiage, and becoming a good listener are all parts of the emotional intelligence equation.

2. Empathy and Compassion

Taking emotional intelligence one step further, empathy and compassion are two qualities of a manager with interpersonal skills. Empathy allows you to gaze through an employee’s eyes and broaden your perspectives, while compassion humanizes your employees. Together, a compassionate and empathetic point of view can foster greater interpersonal communication skills in one-on-one settings, helping you to mold a unique approach to different types of work personalities while building relationships.

3. Thoughtful Expression

Good communication is often discussed as the single most important attribute of a leader. As a manager, you should certainly have communication as one of the most important interpersonal skills. But like any communication, how you present a thought or idea is every bit as integral as the message itself.

Thoughtful expression is an extension of great communication and management skills. It’s tone of voice, confidence, self-awareness, and appropriate body language wrapped up in the message you’re trying to convey. Whether holding a team meeting or asking questions during a job interview, your expression needs to blend with a message with positive intention.

4. Teamwork

Teamwork is the glue that makes a cohesive goal possible, yet each person needs to pull their own weight to reach it. Bolstering teamwork is about motivation and reward, but a manager must also add their own touches to make it work.

Flexibility, active listening, responsibility, and communication are all good interpersonal skills to facilitate a strong work ethic through collaboration.

5. Observation

Collaboration and teamwork can propel a team forward, but they’re not without drawbacks. At some point, you’ll need to tweak your approach to garner the best results.

That’s where observation comes into play. The ability to observe behavioral patterns and how individuals interact with each other gives you dramatic insight into how your team functions as a whole. Through observation and assessment, you can adjust your plans accordingly, creating a well-oiled machine.

6. Trust-Building

Building trust through all levels of a business is one of the most important interpersonal skills for managers. Without trust, employees don’t feel empowered — one of the six levels of Unicorn teams — nor do they feel an overarching instinct to go beyond the bare minimum.

Though trust-building is a time-consuming process, it’s necessary to guide and inspire teams. In times of rapid expansion, change, or crisis, it becomes all the more important. Always be transparent, follow through with what you say, offer mutual respect, and lend a helping hand to ensure trust remains.

7. Feedback and Constructive Criticism

Giving thoughtful constructive criticism to employees can help them overcome their weaknesses and build upon their strengths, but it’s a two-way road. Receiving feedback and constructive criticism are equally as crucial interpersonal skills for managers.

Receptiveness to feedback enables you to build your own leadership and management skills, while also alleviating any trust concerns your employees may have. You only need to listen.

8. Self-Awareness

Just as an employee needs to take heed of their strengths and weaknesses, so do you as a manager. Self-awareness is the concept of being totally in tune with what you’re good at and aspects that need improvement.

You can certainly lean on your strengths but don’t forget that your weaknesses can hold you back — especially if you’re unwilling or unable to recognize them. Self-reflection is an ideal method that can help you learn what you’re lacking and what you can do to rectify the situation.

9. Selflessness

Leaders are inherently selfless. They give rather than take; they listen rather than speak. As such, selflessness is a vital interpersonal skill for managers. Selflessness allows you to take others’ ideas to heart and push your own motivations and aspirations aside for the betterment of the company and your employees.

10. Balance

In many scenarios, management is all about balance. Lean too far in one direction — whatever that may be — and you may fall over. Juggling multiple employees and projects is difficult, but you must strike a balance to maintain a semblance of order.

This balance goes hand-in-hand with selflessness. Sometimes you have to put others’ concerns and development ahead of your own, even for only a short time. However, you will earn the respect of being a balanced, selfless leader — an essential interpersonal skill for managers.

11. Active Listening

According to studies, nonverbal communication comprises 55% of all communication. As a result, to understand employees you must keep an eye on their actions just as much as what they’re relaying to you. This is known as active listening.

Active listening is one of the core components of emotional intelligence. It requires you to pick up on aural cues and body language while comprehending the intent and meaning behind them.

As an active listener, you’re fully present in the conversation; you aren’t distracted by anything tangible or whatever’s on your mind. You’re providing your full, undivided attention. As a gesture of active listening, you follow up comments by asking open-ended questions, as well as reflecting on what you’ve been told.

Once you understand the message and observe the other party’s non-verbal communication, paraphrase the ideas and withhold any judgment, taking to heart the core of the message itself.

There Are No Prerequisites for Interpersonal Skill Success

Unlike hard skills like education and on-the-job experience, interpersonal skills for managers have no prerequisites or baseline requirements. You only need the will and the want to improve yourself.

By understanding the importance of interpersonal skills, you’re already on your way to a streamlined workforce — one that communicates with ease, builds trust, and creates a better work environment for everyone involved.

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