Social Skills at Work: Critical for Teams

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, social skills are actually becoming more crucial in today’s technology-driven society.

According to Fortune Magazine Senior Editor Geoff Colvin in Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will (Portfolio, 2015) and as I discussed last week, our social skills, particularly when we work in teams, could be our competitive advantage in future careers where computers take over many tasks.

Ample evidence demonstrates that we require flexibility, agility and diverse perspectives to understand and manage organizational complexities. CEOs are turning to teams to solve increasingly intricate problems.

The most effective groups include people with strong social skills. Wanting to work with other people is one of the healthier aspects of human nature. We rely on human interactions to:

  • Tell our stories and hear others’ stories
  • Brainstorm new ideas and create new products/services
  • Share our feelings and learn to appreciate other points of view
  • Connect on a deeply human level through our physical senses
  • Form coalitions and alliances
  • Negotiate agreements

Even if a computer spits out the right words and makes the right decisions, we want to follow human leaders. We need to look into someone’s eyes.

What We Don’t Want Computers to Do

We must first identify the skills we want other humans to perform, regardless of a computer’s prowess. Most of these tasks involve projects or areas for which people are held accountable.

For example, computers have shown they’re superior to juries when evaluating criminal evidence, as discussed in Colvin’s book Humans Are Underrated. But there’s a social necessity for humans to be accountable for life-and-death decisions.

Humans are also critical to organizational life because priorities continually shift. It takes a human touch to redefine problems and goals. We must address the needs of numerous stakeholders, including customers, employees and the public—issues that people must work out for themselves.

What do you think are some of the things that we will always insist be done by humans? I’d love to hear from you; you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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