I am on a flight to London (Saturday), where I will be attending a meeting of AMBA (Association of MBAs) to discuss about new educational ways for improving interpersonal skills in students. Conveniently, London and Madrid are the two European capitals connected with the highest frequency of flights per day. Today, the Captain is announcing, our flight will take longer than expected due to "head-winds".
Here there is a suitable analogy applicable to relations in business and the importance of so called interpersonal skills. Head-winds are similar to those circumstances that may make managing people a further complicated task, like the size of organizations, cultural diversity or a company crisis. When pilots encounter head-winds, they increase the power or move to a different altitude to keep the same ground speed. In management, adverse circumstances may be faced by employing good interpersonal skills: for example, good communication may help to ease a company crisis and cross-cultural skills certainly favor the entrance in a foreign market.
On the other hand, "tail winds" may be comparable to those natural or acquired talents that managers practice in their daily interaction with others. I will leave aside those innate talents that people are born with since there is not much room for learning here: the decisive thing is how to profit from them. Having a potent voice with a nice timbre, for example, can be an asset in teamwork, meetings and negotiations, if used properly, but it can also represent a setback if abused. On the other hand, acquired talents --those skills that managers have exercised for years and that become routines in their dealing with others- are a true source of "tail winds" for making the best business out of relations. I believe that almost all interpersonal skills can be categorized as acquired talents. This includes both analytical and emotional skills as well as other technical abilities such as communication, managing teams effectively or diplomacy, an important skill in the increasingly diverse global scenario. The worst naturally gifted for verbal communication, for instance, can evolve into effective orators provided the appropriate training schemes and perseverance. Remember Demostenes, the prominent speaker of Ancient Greece, who learnt his speech skills after carrying little stones in his mouth for an unbearable time.
I enclose a map of the skills more demanded by recruiters, according to a survey published by GMAC.