Your People Skills Matter More than Your Smarts


My friend Kay has superb people skills. She knows just what to do to make people feel at ease. She instinctively reads the “currents” of power and rules in a room full of folks. And she knows herself too. Kay pays attention to what she’s feeling in the moment and recognizes the connection between her feelings to what she’s thinking, doing and saying.

Kay has social and emotional intelligence. In fact it’s her number one signature strength. Aside from being a nice attribute is significant part of why she is successful. That’s not just my opinion. Research backs it up.

Smarts Matter, But Not As Much As You Think

Some researchers, including Laura Belsten, PhD founder of the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence©, believe that your success in work and life is driven more by your social and emotional intelligence than by your smarts (IQ), or your technical abilities, like “strategic thinking” or being able to write an impressive quarterly report.

Unfortunately you most often see social and emotional intelligence when it is missing.

  • The micromanaging supervisor you used to work for (or maybe still do)
  • A friend who can’t handle stress or accept feedback
  • Your co-worker whom no one trusts

Their lack of social and emotional Intelligence limits their degree of success

Here is the good news.

People Skills Lead to Meaningful Results

Cultivating social and emotional Intelligence is a smart thing for anyone to do, and it’s vital if you’re a solo entrepreneur, a corporate team leader, a business owner with employees or an individual who wants to . . .

  • Manage emotional responses more effectively in the moment, shaping them to be productive (versus operating from knee-jerk reactions unlikely to get your desired results)
  • Develop more rewarding relationships personally and professionally
  • Enhance your ability to have the difficult conversations in life
  • Operate from a mindset of success, not fear of failure
  • Stay composed and positive even in trying times

Social and emotional intelligence encompasses 26 skills including interpersonal communication skills, stress management, intentionality, powerful influencing skills, teamwork, trust building and many more. Social and emotional intelligence skills can be learned and strengthened throughout your life.

Effectively Operate in Today’s Workplace

The more robust your social and emotional intelligence is the better able you are to effectively operate in today’s workplace.

“Cultivating a culture where leaders have high social and emotional intelligence creates proven results in increased productivity, increased sales and profits, reduced healthcare costs, increased employee satisfaction and improved employee engagement to name a few,” says Belsten.

She goes on to say, “Managers with high scores in the relevant relationship management competencies of communication, building bonds, building trust, and inspirational leadership, are better equipped to manage their employees in a manner that brings out the best in individuals and teams.”

Cultivate Your People Skills

I’m pleased to announce I recently completed an intensive certification program in coaching social and emotional intelligence, and am now a Social + Emotional Intelligence Certified Coach ® through the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence®. What this means is that I’ve added new services to my portfolio including Social and Emotional Intelligence Assessment, Coaching and Training. You can read about them here ((Insert link)). I have an array of tools and materials available for you that are designed to help all of us be more successful in work and in life.

I’d love to share more information with you about Social and Emotional Intelligence, just email me and we will connect.


Do You Need to Stop This Trust-Breaking Pattern?

Are you a nice boss?

Maybe too nice?

Does this sound remotely familiar? Ninety-five percent of the time you show your confidence in your team’s judgment and initiative by giving them a lot of latitude. You know most people chafe at being micromanaged, and you swore you’d never be that kind of boss.

But you also notice that the rules get bent a little too far a little too often.

You feel disrespected, and despite your best efforts to stay true to your anti-micromanager philosophy, you find yourself at a breaking point. You’re resentful. Maybe a little passive-aggressive. Or you might be the boomerang-blowup type, putting your now-cowering team into lockdown. And then everybody feels discouraged, agitated and undermined.

Worse, you feel ineffective and you worry your team no longer trusts you, or likes you. So you cycle back into leniency, and after a couple of awkward days, things start to normalize.

Until the rule-bending, foot-dragging and frustration starts up again.

What if you could forever change your trust-breaking pattern of extremes?

James, a manager at an accounting firm, did just that when he signed up for my new Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session.

  • an in-depth 30-minute online assessment
  • a professional review of assessment results
  • a private 75-minute phone session to develop effective strategies to begin using immediately

In less than 2 hours, James understood how his well-intended flexibility was tying him in knots of niceness, and thanks to his Jump-Start Session, he walked away with a practical and thoughtful strategy for untangling the knots.

How James Used His Strengths to Nix Trust-Breaking Patterns &
Build an Accountable, Respectful Team

James saw that his boss’s unrelenting focus on the bottom line led to staff burnout and disengagement because they felt like replaceable cogs in a machine. James’s antidote was to compensate by doing everything he could to be the opposite, to be the nice boss.

But he was the too nice boss.

  • He had a perpetually open door.
  • He bought lunch for the office.
  • He corrected people’s work for them.
  • He approved multiple requests for flex-time.
  • He looked the other way when deadlines were missed.

Sooner or later, James would begin to feel taken advantage of, and when he switched gears and tried to enforce the rules, his staff ignored him and refused to do what he asked. He was left with disappointment and a nagging worry that his staff would quit because they didn’t like him.

In his Jump-Start Session, James and I discovered that two of his best-of-self strengths, kindness and love of learning, were the keys to creating a new approach to his leadership.

Now James uses his innate kindness constructively.

  • He holds staff members accountable for deadlines.
  • He points out when the quality of their work needs improvement.
  • He takes time to guide staff members as they learn new skills.
  • He gives recognition to people’s best efforts when he meets with them.

James is building up the reserves of trust in his staff – and they in him.

To keep his own momentum moving forward, every day at the close of business, he asks, “What I am learning about how I am leading now? How can I use this tomorrow?”

Start Writing Your Success Story
By Scheduling Your Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session Today

Stop trust-breaking patterns. Anchor your leadership in your strengths. Lead with confidence.

Sign up in the next 20 days to get my special pricing of $147 (a $250 value).

Jump in now! Scheduling for my Jump-Start Sessions ends March 31 and won’t be offered again until midsummer.

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Here’s to the best in you,


PS: Here’s what James says about his new approach: “I now understand how my strengths interrelate and I found a way to use my two key strengths. Creating opportunities for my staff to be accountable shows I believe in and value them, and that makes things better for everyone.” James C.

PPS: Next week I’ll share my own story of how using best-of-self strengths transformed my career and birthed a business

New! Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Sessions

I’ll bet you know what your greatest strength is.

Do me a favor?

Write it on your mental whiteboard, way up high, with a bright blue marker.

Now, quickly list 9 more.

And without stopping, go for a total of 24.

How’re you doing? It’s tough, isn’t it?

Your Best-of-Self Strengths

24. That’s the number of character strengths you have, according to research conducted by a wealth of psychologists and human development experts.

I call the 24 character traits your best-of-self strengths: the qualities that make you who you are at your core (versus skills you acquire over time). For example, fairness, forgiveness, curiosity, humor, humility. All 24 are beautiful, hope-filled, full of possibility.

Knowing your greatest strength is informative.

But integrating your best-of-self strengths into your work is transformative.

  • Shift from a “what’s wrong” to a “what’s strong” way of living your life
  • Acknowledge problems without getting lost in them
  • Focus your mind and efforts on what is best and good
  • Develop more confidence and push yourself to evolve in your career and as a person
  • Feel energized and enterprising
  • Connect with others, creating mutually supporting and meaningful relationships

I’ve seen it time and time again in my 12 years as a business, career and life coach.

That’s why I developed the Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session, a new quick-start program designed to give you a deeper understanding of your 24 strengths coupled with personalized strategies you can use immediately to tackle some of the most difficult challenges you face in your work.

The Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session

While the Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session is new, the heart of the work is not. Defining strengths and creating strategies for rooting a career or a business in those strengths is central to the work I do in my longer-term one-on-one coaching.

The Jump-Start Session has 3 parts:

  1. An in-depth 30-minute online assessment to put the spotlight on what’s best about you
  2. A professional review of your assessment results to help you understand how your strengths are related and how they sometimes compete with each other
  3. A private 75-minute phone session to develop useful strategies you can immediately apply to your work or other parts of your life

The Jump-Start Session is especially effective if you are …

  • Exploring a career transition and struggling to find an ideal fit
  • Starting a new business with a partner and need to make decisions about roles and responsibilities
  • Working in a family business and want to add value to your role
  • Stepping into a leadership role and need to define your leadership style
  • Re-visioning your work and want what you do to be centered around your strengths
  • Longing to bring more depth and meaning to a career you love

To Unleash Your Strengths Schedule Your Jump-Start Session Today

Limited Offer: 20 people

Special Introductory Pricing: $147

Registration Ends: March 31

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Don’t let someone get your spot!

Contact me before March 31 to schedule your session.

6 Traits of Amazing Mentors (and why you need one)

This year I joined a mastermind group and am fortunate to have found an amazing one. We serve as a lovingly honest advisory board for one and other. This group of folks cares more about being kind (willing to point out “the good”, “the bad” and the “what the heck?”) than being nice (for the sake of avoiding creative conflict and therefore growth).

Being in the group is like standing in the middle of a circle of mentors; at times a little intense and uncomfortable but worth the scrutiny. We challenge each other to. . .

  • Ferret out the very best ideas out of all the ones we dream up.
  • To see failures as a temporary, if a wee painful, experience from which we can still extract something useful (won’t do that again, but will do this).
  • To give credit where it’s due.
  • To walk in time to our own drums and welcome others to join the journey through our businesses.
  • And to sometimes to just keep moving forward.

I ask you, who could not use a person (or group of people) like that in life?

Mentors Help Us Be Our Best Selves

Good mentors understand the difference between inspiring guidance and the ability to coerce others to “do-what-I-say”. They set an example by using their best traits to direct their efforts and their tribes. They set a pace and will nudge you forward, if you let them.

And the very best mentors share 6 traits I see reflected in my mastermind group.

6 Traits of Amazing Mentors

Passionate and Clear Point of View. A distinct voice and viewpoint that they passionately embrace without coming off crazed. They know why they do what they do and it shows.  

Mindful Listening. A world-class ability to listen deeply, they hear what you don’t say, as much as what you do say. They notice your feelings and thoughts and catch the nuances – even when you are on the phone. They don’t judge and help you make sense of what’s going on in your head, heart and gut.    

Honesty. They carry a suitcase of integrity at all times. What they say is true. How they act aligns with what they say are their values. They say what needs to be said, especially when it is hard, to spur deep learning and effective action.  

Zest. They expect the best and confidently work for that to be the case. They enthusiastically embody a “you can do it, it can be even better” attitude that spreads to those around them. It’s not a put on- it is part of who they are.  

Warm Regard for Others. They genuinely care about what they do and the people in their lives, including their teams. They consistently find small ways to let this show without being sappy. They hold people accountable in the spirit of compassion and what they see as the potential being missed.    

Modesty without Undervaluing. Self-assured without being a blowhard or devaluing what they have to offer they confidently step back and find ways to help others shine.

So are you are an amazing mentor? Have you seen these same traits in your best mentors? If you have a minute, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on twitter.

How One Leader Made Her Softest Skill Her Strongest Asset

Kat’s a rising leader in her state and in her field. She’s whip smart, down to earth, generous and one of the most social people around. Kat instinctively reads people and knows how to relate to them, making them welcome and at ease. And she gets the best out of them.

That makes complete sense; social intelligence is her number one signature strength.

Honestly, if you looked up the phrase in the dictionary, Kat’s picture ought to be next to it.

Kat gives networking a good name, using her ability to connect to help others realize their success.

And that is superb.

Except for one thing on her mind . . .

A Nagging I Wonder How To

“I wish I could figure out how to use my love of networking to make a living.”

Great question. How do you make a strength – that seems soft or squishy- the foundation from which to build a successful self-supporting career?

Squishy Can Become A Solid Foundation

And that’s what Kat and I are delving into. Spotlighting strategies for connecting with people that:

  1. highlight her special insights and experiences, and
  2. fit with what is important to her as a person.

These strategies accelerate her ability to build a career firmly grounded in her number one strength.

Kat’s got stories to tell as a woman in a technical field, and as young successful professional, her tales have wisdom for others.

She comes alive around people and other people’s successes are important to her as her own.

So, telling her tales and sharing her insights is a way of helping others and gives her more opportunities to connect.

Solidifying A Soft Skill

She’s scouting speaking opportunities at young professional groups. And she’s writing articles for trade and professional organization publications, and local news outlets.

Kat’s putting her natural ability to good use in a statewide leadership program, helping to link people based 100’s of miles apart, and from very different sectors, together. Rooting stronger relationships for the benefit of many.

That’s just the beginning of how she can use her natural strength to build a satisfying career.

And better yet, she’s realizing her calling, to connect people and bring everyone forward.

Why I am I Telling You About This

Knowing and using your signature strengths helps you to be amazing (Yes, you are amazing even if you don’t feel it this moment) because you shine a light on what’s best about you. And that makes what you do and who you are amazing.

The research backs it up.

The world needs you to do your best work and be your best self. And so do you.

70% of people are checked out at work, are you?

I am fascinated by how people answer the question, “What do you do?”  Think about it.

I bet your job immediately came to mind.  That’s true for almost everyone I meet. As if a position on an organizational chart is the primary defining characteristic about you.

But you are so much more than a position on an organizational chart.

Even if you spend a lot of time with/at/for work.  Getting a job. Learning the job. Keeping the job. Building a business. Planning for the business. Commuting to and from work. Taking work home.

You are still not your work.

And we- individual people as a whole- don’t do a very good job making the most of the mind-boggling amount of time given to work.

Turns out neither do most of the businesses in the US.

Work: Engaging or Soul Sucking

Only 30% of the US workforce is engaged with work*. If you work with passion and feel a profound connection to your company you are in this group.

On the other hand 52% of you are not engaged at work*- you’ve checked out and you’re clock-watching.

  • It stinks to feel you are going through the motions with no room to grow.
  • Feeling your best traits and skill are ignored at work is deflating.

More disconcerting 18% of you are actively disengaged* you are so unhappy at work you take it out on everyone in the office.

  • Being around colleagues so miserable at work they undermine progress, is soul sucking -for you the miserable- and everyone else.
  • Plus that attitude and actions are infectious poisoning the other parts of your life.

What Makes Work Engaging

People who use their strengths every day are 6-times more likely to be engaged with work (Gallup 2013).

How GREAT would it feel to be able to use your best-of-self traits (the singular constellation of skills and strengths, experiences and quirks that make you who you are) every day at the place where you spend the majority of your waking hours?

Awesome. It is awesome.

Leaders and managers who create environments where their employees’ best-of-self traits are used 10 hours a week can practically eliminate active disengagement and can double the number workers who are engaged.

There’s Hope If You Want To Do Something About It

Ideally you (and everyone else) are in a workplace that is a honest-to-goodness, strengths based environment.

And there is hope even if you aren’t.

The trick is to expand your possibilities to use your best-of-self traits . . . regardless of circumstances.

The magic of the trick is expanding your possibilities even when your stretch is small. It’s the stretch that matters.

Over the next couple of weeks I will share stories of real people stretching how they use their best-of-self strengths (or helping their employees to) and what happens.

*State of the American Workplace, Gallup 2013. It’s bedtime reading for me, so you don’t have to read it!

Is Humility Holding You Back?

I have client, Paul, who’s bright, ambitious, a family man, entrepreneur, and very down to earth. In fact he is so down to earth and concerned about not coming off like a pompous jerk that he gets in his own way.

Compliment him on doing something well he’s quick to dismiss it.  When negotiating contracts with clients he’s swift to say “here are all the wonderful amazing things that I can do for you but don’t think that makes me a genius or that means I’m any better than you.”

Of course he’s better than his clients at what he does, that’s why they are hiring him.

When Paul says “but my skills and talents don’t make me better than you” he’s not allowing his most defining traits -the ones that make him really good at what he does and who he is- shine on their own. Inadvertently the message he sends is that he’s questioned his abilities and maybe really isn’t sure he’ll be able to deliver on what he’s promised.

But that’s not actually the case.

He’s apologizing for no good reason.

He is trying to downplay his talents and his finely honed skills to relate to other people and make sure everyone eels comfortable.  The idea that someone might see him as better than they are is just too much to bear so he’s quick to qualify his gifts and downplay them, in place of just letting them stand on their own without comment.

The irony is that he’s holding himself in higher esteem than the other person, maybe not in the front of his mind, but in the back of his mind. The very thing he’s trying to avoid.

When your humility turns into halting self-deprecation it stops being a good thing.

 Many people, maybe even you (I know I did), grow up with the message don’t put yourself on a pedestal or don’t get too big for your britches. Not being a self-centered narcissist is a really fine thing. It keeps you grounded and driving. And it helps you to notice what other people bring to the table. But it can lead to holding yourself back because you don’t want to show off or be perceived that you’re showing off.

Paul’s challenge is to simply own and honor his best traits -the ones that makes him who he is at his very best and the very reason people want to hire him- without apologizing for them or being pompous.  He’ll be humble, respectful and at ease and will make others feel at ease too.

If this is ringing a bell for you, maybe you’re holding back when you should not.  Here’s my challenge for you each day this week practice simply spotting your best traits and when you get to use them what happens. Don’t judge what happens as good or bad just simply notice. See what happens. See what you discover.

I’d love to hear about your experiences on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Deirdre Danahar works creative professional ready to do their best work without sacrificing their quality of life. She is the owner of InMotion Consulting & Coaching, based in Jackson, MS. Reach her at