Imagine the effectiveness of a company in which your employees with world-class technical skills had equally strong interpersonal skills. Ralph Salo, the former CFO of Target Stores, has said that the differentiator separating the technical specialist from the financial leader is their mastery of “soft skills”.
Those same competencies, often disregarded or dismissed by technically talented individuals, can have a significant impact on the success they could have. It’s true in finance and technology. Larry Clarkin of Microsoft notes that “When projects fail, it’s no longer about the technology itself. The technology expense is only about 8% of the cost of projects that fail, down from 30 – 40% in the past. Communication is a huge part of why projects fail or succeed. That’s why there’s nothing technically capable people can do to better increase project success than to improve their communication acumen.”
In the experience of Dean Junkans, Chief Investment Officer of Wells Fargo Private Banking, the high intensity of investment professionals with deep analytical skills makes them the top in their field, but they often do not put enough emphasis on relationship skills. This blind spot can be a derailleur for them as they move into leadership roles in the organization.
Junkans noted, “I had often wished for a guide for investment professionals who were quite bright and very analytical but maybe have not thought about how they are perceived. I found it in the book, Seeing Yourself As Others Do – Authentic Executive Presence At Any Stage Of Your Career by Carol Keers and Thomas Mungavan of Change Masters, a Minneapolis based coaching firm.”
The Gallup Corporation has found that almost 70% of how we get people to support our ideas is based on the hundreds of mundane moments we have each day. Often not enough emphasis is placed on developing the nuanced day-to-day communication skills on small and large moments with outstanding individual contributors. High performers need to be able to connect with those who have a different style in a group, or with co-workers, bosses, subordinates as well as the clients that they serve to get things done.
Investment professionals tend to have a deep analytical skill set that makes them very good at analyzing companies or investment opportunities. Junkans noted that despite these skills, he has seen many investment professionals at the top of their field not being as effective as they could be. For example, some had such a high need to be right they didn’t listen in proportion to how much they talked. The price of this behavior was limiting their potential.
It is challenging to lead high talent analysts in a way that keeps their best traits while helping them to move to the next level of executive presence and interpersonal skills. They don’t think they need those skills, or they just need to use them in a highly selective set of circumstances. However, there comes a time when they need to take it to the next level.
Junkans has seen this on many occasions. “The concepts illustrated in the book Seeing Yourself As Others Do and in Change Masters’ individual coaching make a significant difference in awareness and execution. Their concepts and coaching are simple but pragmatic and they appeal to the highly intelligent reader.
An example of this was Change Masters’ Intelligent / Impatient Person Profile. My leaders were quick processors with high IQs, so the attributes were a perfect match for them.”
Carol Keers, senior coach at Change Masters, has observed many high-potential investment and technical professionals that fit this “Intelligent / Impatient Person” profile. The way it often shows up for the technically brilliant but interpersonally-limited talent is by the way they:
• Tell versus sell.
• Muscle their way through discussions.
• Sound or look condescending.
• Get frustrated when people couldn’t keep up with them.
• Expect if they got it, so should everyone else.
• Love a good debate – and being extremely good at it!
• Observe the world ironically or cynically.
• Decide they know what the other person is saying before they’re finished because of being so competitive, intense and driven.
Carol Keers is Senior Vice President of Change Masters and co-author of “Seeing Yourself As Others Do – Authentic Executive Presence At Any Stage Of Your Career”.
Dean Junkans is retired Chief Investment Officer for Wells Fargo Private Banking and author of “The Anatomy of Investing”.