Recently had the chance to chat with Mr. Xenophon Hasapis, Specialist Talent & Team-Building Coach, about how companies can increase their productivity exponentially through team-building activities. This article is adapted from the original, as written by interviewer Antonis Papadopoulos.

Mr. Xenophon Hasapis possesses a BSc and PhD in Chemistry, and has previously worked at large, international companies, such as P&G, Xerox, and SAP, having spent the last 8 years as General Director of Boussias Communications – the largest B2B communications organisation in Greece. He specialises in the development of ‘soft skills’, coaching, and increasing teamwork productivity, amongst other things.

You might logically wonder; “how does chemistry have anything to do with business?”

To which Mr. Hasapis answers; “The truly large organisations are interested in people with experience in theoretical subjects, through which they have developed analytical, and strategical thinking. You don’t have to have a degree in business to work in the industry”.

One of your specialities is the development of ‘soft skills’, what exactly does that mean?

‘Soft skills’ refer to Emotional Intelligence. The ability to cooperate, and learn to give, and take. To open your mind. To take initiative, and not rely on constant hand-holding. We all have bad days. Developing ‘Soft skills’ is taking on added responsibility for a colleague when they are having a hard time, and having that reciprocated on your bad day. ‘Soft Skills’ is having a heart.

A combination of 'Soft' and 'Hard' skills are needed for success

A combination of ‘Soft’ and ‘Hard’ skills are needed for success

Are they as important as ‘hard skills’? More so, or less?

In a human organisation both are a requisite. If ‘hard skills’ are the brain, then ‘soft skills’ are the heart, and each needs the other. People that possess ‘the brain’, but lack ‘the heart’, are often problematic to a company, as they will be first to notice, and report a problem, without giving it the necessary attention. They will quit, and become indifferent. It is necessary for an individual to develop their ‘soft skills’, this is where a coach comes in, to help them find new ways to approach, and manage an issue. ‘Soft Skills’ are want differentiate people from one another, and are what can make a group of individuals, into a successful team.

What are the common issues Cypriot companies face in comparison to those abroad?

Cypriot companies have to understand the transition that is happening. Family businesses started by parents don’t suffer from lack of communication, but as future generations take over, and the company grows, it does become an issue. In Cyprus family businesses suffer in this regard. We don’t have a business culture, things aren’t put in the hands of a qualified manager. Abroad things are much clearer. Owner, investor, manager, and employees, are all separate, and roles don’t get confused.

Another thing I’d like to point out is the way some companies operate. The traditional hierarchical mentality – “I am the boss, what I say goes” – is outdated. It isn’t the right mentality, there needs to be communication, open mindedness, and teamwork. Many business owners claim to have tried these things, and they failed. There are two reasons for this; 1) seminars and presentations are not the same as team-building experiences, and 2) the owners themselves were absent! It is of paramount importance that they are present, and at the time, that everyone is equal. Of equal importance is the location; not everything has to happen within the confines of four walls. Furthermore, it shouldn’t just be a one off, rather a foundation to build upon.

'I am the boss' mentality is outdated

‘I am the boss’ mentality is outdated

How good is the cooperation between employees in a multi-national company, compared to one that’s smaller, and more flexible?

Both can bring success. Usually in smaller companies the familial hierarchy governs, with a ‘family head’ that holds a higher position, directing, and advising the others. In other words, there is a sharing of wisdom, without too much procedure, and everything is done in good spirit. On the other hand, multi-national companies have proven there are methods, and systems, that work. There are procedures, and everything is controlled. Everyone knows what they have to do, and the use of technology simplifies their work. Furthermore, everyone knows what to expect from eachother.

What is the relation between communication and productivity?

These two things are directly linked, and the worst thing an employer can do is decide not to spend resources on improving employees’ teamwork and ‘soft skills’, simply because ‘times are hard’. Investing in these is a MUST. Without teamwork comes pressure, which in turn breeds anxiety, and subsequently the relinquishing of responsibilities, ultimately leading to a loss in profits for the company. Is there really a company that wants their employees to waste valuable work hours due to miscommunication? I don’t think so. Abroad companies invest in the ‘soft skills’ of each employee that receives a promotion. Especially when it relates to managerial positions, because in essence, what is a manager? Someone that manages people!

I know a company that hasn’t had a meeting in 2 years. When I asked how they communicated, they said by email. So if I, as an employee, have to communicate with my superiors in writing for 2 years, you can imagine the detachment that exists, one that can lead to an immeasurable loss in productivity. Everyone will be doing their job, but nothing more, without thinking how to add value and improve their business.

Any closing statements?

I want to touch upon something relating to interviews. The person interviewing a candidate must be able to conduct an effective interview, in other words, the process must produce results. Standard qualifications aren’t the only things that should be taken into account. A heavy focus should also be placed on the individual’s emotional intelligence.�

Interview conducted, and original article written by: Antonis Papadopoulos

Article adapted and translated by: Alexander Goodenough

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