I’ve been thinking about the speech John McDonough recently gave at Loyola University Chicago (which I summarized yesterday). The underlying theme is the importance of people skills in having a successful career. Early in my career, I thought that professional success was based overwhelmingly on how well you did your job. I thought of the people side of the equation as ancillary to professional competence. If I had to break it down into a formula, I would have said professional competence accounted for 90 percent of one’s success and that people skills made up the remaining 10 percent.
Boy, was I wrong.
I now believe the formula is at least 50-50 and probably closer to 40-60, with people skills outweighing strictly “professional” ones. I’m not saying you can be an incompetent charmer and survive (although there are probably many examples of that). What I am saying is that one skills set complements the other. And if one doesn’t consciously work on being strong in both areas, you’re at a huge disadvantage.
Bottom line: people like doing business with people they like. With the economy being what it is and with lots of folks out there who have the base-level professional skills, review McDonough’s bullet points and pass them on to someone whose future matters to you. You’d be doing them a favor.