How to Improve Your People Skills: Top 7 Tips for Army Leaders

Today, I want to talk about improving your people skills.  Now, I know that some Army folks don’t think that people skills are all that important in the Army.  Many Soldiers think the Army is just about telling others what to do and doing what you are told to do.

I have to tell you, the Army is much more than that.  As I see it, the Army is the ULTIMATE people business.   The Army is about building relationships, getting along with others, and working with people from different backgrounds.  It’s not about being the most liked person, but it is about being respected and trusted by other people.

With close to one million Soldiers within the combined Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard, it pays to develop your people skills.  After all, the Army is a relatively small organization.  People you work with today you will likely see again in the future.  And the person working for you today could be your boss in five years from now.  The last thing you want to do is burn a bridge with someone.

Ideally, you want to be good at your job, and you want to be liked, trusted, and respected by others.  To do this, you need to develop your people skills.  My goal today is to help you do that.  The seven tips below will help you get started.

# 1 Treat Everyone with Respect – This might sound like common sense, but make sure that you treat everyone with respect, whether they can help you or not and whether they outrank you or not.  Treat your superiors, peers and subordinates with respect.  Remember that everyone is a person, in addition to being a Soldier.  I’m not trying to be touchy feely here and tell you to be sweet or non-military like.  Instead, I’m telling you to be compassionate and remember the Golden Rule.

# 2 Remember People’s Names – Many military leaders stink at remembering people’s names.  The Army helps us out by having name tags on our uniforms.  Make it a point to remember people’s names.  When you meet someone, say their name a few times when you talk to them.  Use it in a sentence if possible.  Always call people by their name.  I’m not telling you to call your superiors by their first name.  Just remember their last name.

# 3 Don’t Talk Badly of Others – I understand you will meet people you don’t like.  That’s okay.  But never talk badly of others, especially in front of other people.  You never know what type of relationship the people you are talking too have with the person you are talking about.  Thinking badly of someone is one thing.  Saying what you think is totally different.  Try to look for the good things in people and when you have an issue with someone, talk to them directly.  Never badmouth people (higher or lower ranking) with anyone else.

# 4 Help Others Get What They Want – Another great way to improve your people skills is to help others get what they want.  Find out what other people are trying to accomplish and help them get it.  Help your Soldiers get promoted, get the job they want, the schools they want, etc.  Help enough people get what they want and you will get what you want.  You will also win people’s respect and they will naturally like you and look out for you.

# 5 Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain –  Don’t complain.  Keep a positive attitude and look at the bright side of things.  If you are feeling negative or have something bad to say, go in your office by yourself, say it, and then return.  Don’t speak negative things in front of others.  People like people with a positive attitude.

# 6 Show a Genuine Interest in Others – Get other people talking about themselves.  Ask questions and learn how to listen.  When you meet others DON’T TALK ABOUT YOURSELF.  In most cases, the other person is not interested in you anyway.  They’re interested in themselves.    Do what you can to get them talking about themselves.

# 7 Smile – Don’t smile when you are getting your butt chewed out for doing something wrong.  But when you are talking with others in a friendly conversation put a smile on your face.  When you smile at others they normally smile back.  It’s a great way to break the ice and initiate a conversation with someone else.

Bonus Tip – Admit When You Are Wrong: This is another area that many Army Leaders really mess up.  They think that admitting they made the wrong decision or did something wrong is a sign of weakness.  I have to tell you: It’s not.  If anything it is a sign of strength.  People will respect someone who can admit when they are wrong.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have enjoyed these seven tips on how to improve your people skills.  If you would like to improve your people skills even more, I would suggest the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  That book changed my life and career (concerning people skills) and I know it can do the same for you.

The bottom line is that you have to learn how to get along with people.  You have to learn how to be likable.  Yes, you have to be good at your job and have a good military bearing, but it also pays to have other people like you, trust you and respect you.

What do you think?  What tips can you share with other Army Soldiers to help them improve their people skills?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “How to Improve Your People Skills: Top 7 Tips for Army Leaders”

  1. There is nothing worse than working with someone for six months, a year, maybe more and then seeing them look at your name tape before they address you because they don't know your name. It's very frustrating.

    Treating people with respect is very important for a variety of reasons. When you make a little rank that doesn't mean it's open season to push the lower ranks around. Also when you are a lower or middle rank don't rip your superiors in a group setting. First, it will find its way back to them. Second, it's unprofessional. If you have a problem with someone, either solve it face to face or via the chain of command. A group of buddies is no place to air grievances about your supervisor or commander.

  2. Greg’s got it right with the Golden Rule – to treat others as you would like to be treated. Working in retail I have to say that learning people’s name is so important! It makes you stand out and they appreciate being remembered – and will generally bring repeat business or speak highly of you to their friends. #6 – show genuine interest in others brought a funny memory to mind: I was having a particularly bad day and my supervisor at the time came by and said, “are you okay?” I looked at her and said, “do you really want to know?” She was like, “Nah. Not really. I was just trying to be nice.” Hey – I can appreciate honesty! We ended up being really good friends. :)

  3. These are great tips Chuck. We always must remember that it is a small world, and you may treat someone bad, or talk badly about them, only to find yourself under their command in the future. If we use common sense in treating others, and follow the Golden Rule, life and the job will run much smoother and success will be on our doorstep. I also love your bonus tip; this is something many of us have difficulty with, but it is such a relief when we do so.

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