Authors and Consultants | GP Strategies Corporation

Top Performer Perspective: Human Interaction Skills


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In 2015, Geoff Colvin wrote Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will. His ostensible purpose was to highlight those factors that are uniquely human—characteristics that will likely never be replicated by machines. But his underlying message about the skill sets uniquely employed by humans struck another chord with us.

It is those uniquely human skills, the skills of human interaction in particular, that weave a common thread through what we’ve observed as perspectives shared by top performers. Take another look at the list of top performer perspectives:

  • dreaming
  • humble
  • patient
  • resolute
  • dealing with bureaucracy
  • storytelling
  • team oriented
  • team alignment
  • trusting
  • technically competent
  • willingness to share

Notice that all of them—except being technically competent—share a couple of attributes. One, they transcend the technical aspects of getting the work done. Two, and most importantly, they describe how top performers think about themselves and relate to those around them in their work environment. Those top performers don’t view others as obstacles to getting their work done. Instead, they view people, whether above them, alongside them, or below them in the organizational hierarchy, as an integral part of the work itself. That’s important enough to repeat: people are not in the way of getting the work done, they are an integral part of the work itself.

With that acute understanding of the critical role that human interaction skills play in their success, we should not be surprised that top performers often focus on outcomes such as trusted advisor relationships, aligned teams, or similar people-oriented elements. The more we study the range of outcomes produced by top performers in varying roles and industries, the more we find the simple truth that human interaction skills are absolutely critical for top performer success.

Colvin realizes this as well and is voicing a clarion cry when he writes: “Businesses can’t even begin to get better until leaders acknowledge that these [human interaction] skills are the key to competitive advantage.”

The implication of that statement is enormous. Organizations have yet to awaken to the reality that faces them. We agree with Colvin. If they want to experience success within their modern workforce, organizations must wake up and begin to take proactive measures to improve their performers’ ability to become experts at human interaction skills.

Question to ponder:

  • Has your organization acknowledged the critical importance of human interaction skills?
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