Archive Emma Kampouraki

Good people skills; ticket to a successful career

By Emma Kampouraki

Professor Sir John Burn has been appointed the new chairman of the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Trust a week ago. Immediately after reading the news, I felt that great satisfaction flowing inside me, like I’ve always wanted to see this happening. Then, I remembered. The first day I met him after an honorary lecture he gave in a meeting. I was impressed!

I have met loads of successful people so far in my life. And I consider myself lucky for that. I always take some time to observe them before I talk to them. While introducing myself, I look them deeply in the eyes and try to understand what they might be thinking. However, I’ve never managed to read their minds as they end up saying exactly the opposite to what I was thinking.

I’ve spent a few hours trying to understand what makes them so successful and influential at the same time. I know their secret now; among being clever and hardworking and lots of others, they also have good “people” skills!

This may be the biggest asset in someone’s life, both personal and professional. Studies show that when a person is speaking, over half of what people understand is coming from body language and particularly the expressions of the face. Another 40% or so comes from voice and tone, with the actual words falling under the remaining one tenth. Without wanting to underestimate words, the picture always counted more anyway. And the picture we are making, while smiling, speaking passionately or transmitting our best energy to the audience is what impresses and convinces people about the real truth. Successful people have a unique way of communication; full of experience, knowledge and expertise without pretending to be robots and forgetting to be humans.

In order to convince your audience, you definitely need to present your logic and data upon which you based your conclusions. Or, you can simply allow your audience to trust you. Those two are linked, of course, but the latter required a lot more effort. Trust is something we achieve, it’s never given for free. It’s always connected to sincere people that present facts as objectively as possible and never fall under promises they can’t keep. If you say, it’s worth the money I’ll spend on it, you have to prove me wrong when I say I am not paying. Or vice versa.

People make mistakes. Those who know that, also know that mistakes, excluding only but a few, can be reversible one way or another. As always, you need time to assess what is right or wrong though. And this is where patience fits. All you have to do is concentrate, think clearly, act slowly and give it some time to “cook”. Like you do with your delicious cake. Or employees. Or PhD students.

This is the last, but maybe the most important. It defines the connection you cultivate with the people that surround you. Empathy can be demonstrated when you show pure interest in others’ lives. For that, you can be as open-minded as it takes. A detail from a conversation you had last week, that concert ticket they wanted and you found it, the name of their pet or even the last time they said they needed your help. (Try not to freak them out with the last time they popped into the loo.) These little moments are all important to them, as it is your children for you. They show you care.

I hope it’s clearer now what the title was about. People skills make us inspiring. Success is mainly demonstrated by loving your whole life as it is today. Don’t forget to be human, kind and have a bit of humour as well. It might not be necessary, but it helps making each and every day special.

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