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    July 19, 2023

    Why 'Soft' Skills Are Vital Connecting Skills

    No matter the challenge in the workplace, effective leadership is key to making your team thrive. It means the organization can stay resilient and be more adaptive to change. Typically, leadership and management training focus on the fundamentals, like managing the P&L, rules and policies in the organization, and expectations on goal setting and reporting. There is often not enough focus on effective communication that emphasizes the values of authenticity, empathy, and the capacity to be adaptive to different scenarios and people.

    The past few years have upended the workplace and there are still may organizations that are figuring out how work gets done. For some industries, “work from home” was never an option.  There are companies that now allow their employees to decide what works best for them. And then there are companies that have a hybrid approach or decided everyone should be back in the office. No matter your organization’s approach, there is a growing need for leaders at all levels to be able to connect with their team members and with leadership. These challenges make learning connecting skills vitally important to the success of any organization.

    A forwarding-thinking way to do that is by reframing “hard" and "soft” skills into decision making and connecting skills. This approach can start to change the way leaders think about what can make them more successful.  

    The standard way of describing hard and soft skills:

    • Soft skills are non-technical skills that describe how you work and interact with others.
    • Hard skills are technical skills required for a job.

    Both are necessary to be and effective leader, yet not as much emphasis is put on the need for better connection and communication.  

    What You Can Do
    See if there is a balance between decision making and connecting/communication education. Ensure there is a focus not just on education, but also allows for communication practice so that leaders and managers can be better connectors. Understand what communication style is already built into your organization and what is valued by leadership.  Examples:

    • Concise emails with bullet points to outline the topic, the problem, and the solution.
    • Reports that clearly communicate what the company needs to understand.
    • Specific types of meetings that are interactive with leadership and/or their teams to get real-time feedback.

    Understand how your leadership or management training incorporates authentic voice. This is an opportunity to potentially connect with some of your DE&I initiatives and programs. An employee being promoted into leadership may have additional concerns stepping into their new role if they don’t see a lot of people like them in leadership roles.

    • If it’s an employee from a diverse background moving into leadership, has the team ever had a diverse leader that the training can highlight?  
    • If the new manager or leader is leading a more diverse team, is there an opportunity for them to voice any concerns they may have?  

    This all may sound like additional work but has a clear connection to the organization’s bottom line. It’s also important to recognize that in a multi-generational, diverse workforce, leaders need to be more skilled at adapting to what gets the best results out each team member. That requires knowing what type of communication to use when.

    Some questions you may want to discuss in your organization:

    • How does a new, younger manager feel about leading someone that is their parent’s age?
    • What challenges would a seasoned leader at 60 have when integrating someone that is 21?
    • Are there ageism biases that aren’t being recognized and getting in the way of teams working together?
    • How may unconscious bias impact how a new leader is viewed by their team?

    Talent from all backgrounds wants to be able to effectively contribute.  A lot of that depends on how well those leading them can understand when someone is disconnected and know how to support them to get them reengaged.  That all goes back to how well that leader has been trained on communication and connecting and whether the organization understands that these skills are just as important as training leaders on decision-making skills. It’s about integrating the traditionally-valued management skills with a more forward-thinking approach to the value of integration and connection. When leaders at all levels have both the decision-making skills and are proficient at communication and connection, everyone in the organization wins.

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