Soft skills are what help us to communicate and get along with others. From early childhood, parents, teachers and others are constantly guiding us in how to effectively navigate and manage our relationships with one another. The concept of manners, speaking kindly and playing nicely are taught and reinforced. The effectiveness of the teaching and our ability and willingness to absorb and implement the teachings is another matter altogether.
Let’s fast forward to adulthood. Does every single person you know possess social awareness and adeptness in managing relationships and superb communications skills? Unfortunately, those “fluffy” skills taught during childhood may not have stuck, for whatever reason. In the workplace the lack of the ability to effectively manage relationships creates cultural dysfunction and poor performance. As a result, leader development programming and executive coaching are two fast growing services that help leaders become increasingly effective in relationships to facilitate improved work-related outcomes.
Regardless of your chosen profession and your behavioral “hard-wiring,” leadership skills and the underlying “soft skills” can be learned and applied. Even the most socially advanced of us can use some pointers every once in a while.
The following are 4 key leadership “soft skills” that can be applied in any role:
1. LISTENING: As a leader, your #1 priority is to engage those around you and elicit their thinking and allow them to own the associated outcomes. Even if you are the subject-matter expert, as the leader of a team, you must ask the right questions and push your team for the answers. They will be more engaged and will grow in their effectiveness.
2. DELEGATING: As part of listening, a leader encourages self-directed decision making and reasonable risk taking to develop leadership thinking and a results-orientation among the team. Let go, delegate, allow for mistakes and treat mistakes as learning and coaching opportunities. Focus more on “what” is to be accomplished and allow the team to own “how” it is accomplished.
3. REMAINING OPEN: Trust is the foundation of the ability to lead, and it is fostered by openness and self-awareness. Good leaders genuinely share their own challenges and doubts to let others know it’s okay not to have all the answers. Equally as important, a leader asks for and actually obtains feedback to gauge effectiveness as a leader. A good leader remains open and non-defensive, attacking blind spots to increase effectiveness.
4. CARING: Your people are the most important success factor in your role as a leader, so that should dictate a large part of where you spend your time. Are you actively building relationships or is it all about the work? Are you focused on them and their work or “your own work?” Leading them is not something you do in addition to your job. It is the job. You can only lead them if you have a relationship with them.
The majority of us can find continuous opportunities to improve on these four soft skills, and for those that don’t think there’s room to grow in these areas, perhaps some objective assessment might be beneficial to you [see our leadership #selfie post]. While these may seem a bit fluffy, remember that these basics are necessary to create and maintain a high-performing organization, and that it’s all too easy to forget to work on these skills.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.