When it comes to good management, soft skills are king.
Technical expertise and work experience required, soft skills optional.
This is how most job descriptions were written. But not anymore.
These days more companies are realizing the importance of soft skills, and how they really shouldn’t be “nice to have” skills. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 92% of talent professionals say that soft skills are actually just as important or more important than hard skills and work experience. In the same report, 89% said that if a new hire didn’t work out, it’s due to the lack of soft skills.
Hard skills may determine how well someone can do their job, but soft skills can determine how well and how long someone can stay with their job and company. For managers, soft skills can determine just about all of the above.
Why Lead with Soft Skills?
Most managers are promoted into the management position because they excelled at their previous job– which is great. You obviously want a leader who knows how things work from a technical perspective, so in case there are technical issues, they are able to take the lead in finding solutions. However, these aren’t the only problems that can come up in teams. A lot of the time managing people will involve managing people problems, not technical ones.
If you’re managing a team of robots, having zero soft skills would be acceptable. But when managing teams of people, you will need good people skills. People have different personalities, beliefs, motivations, and moods; they can have down days, good days, and “just good enough” days. There will be all kinds of misunderstandings, and the manager has to deal with them all. Apart from that, managers also have to encourage, motivate, and inspire their team to do better. Technical expertise alone will not accomplish all that.
When it comes to managing teams, soft skills are king. Soft skills like empathy, conflict resolution, and flexibility are qualities that define excellent and effective leaders.
The Value of Soft Skills
Numerous research supports the importance of soft skills not only in management, but in any position. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that the majority of employers and HR professionals give more importance to soft skills than to technical ability. Other sources even point out that hard skills are useless without soft skills, as soft skills are often necessary in order to give value to hard skills. For instance, the ability to build a high-tech product would all be for naught without the ability to empathize with consumers and figure out what they actually need from the product.
Soft skills are particularly significant for leadership roles. Research from the Hay Group shows that managers who incorporate various soft skills into their leadership approach are able to boost their team’s performance by as much as 30%. Why? It’s because soft skills, when properly applied in the leadership role, make people feel valued and rewarded, give them a clear sense of high standards, and motivate them to do and be better at work. In this way, soft skills have a direct impact on team performance and consequently, business performance.
What Are the Most Crucial Soft Skills?
So which soft skills are most important for managers? Actually, all of them are important. This isn’t to say however, that you have to learn all of them right away. Trying to do so will only leave you frustrated. Part of what makes soft skills highly valuable is that they can be more difficult to learn than hard skills. But by taking them one at a time, practicing self-awareness and mindfulness, focusing on your strengths and weaknesses, and being open to feedback from both subordinates and superiors; soft skills can be developed over time.
To get you started, here are the top 8 soft skills you’ll need as a team leader or manager:
Collaboration is the ability to work with others, but when it comes to good management, it extends well beyond that. Being a collaborative manager means you not only know how to work well with the members of your team, but also know how to inspire your team members to work well together, even without you.
- Effective Communication
Effective communication is key to achieving success in the workplace. How well you are able to communicate with your team members can define how well goals are understood and met, how quickly you can resolve problems, and many other critical situations that can greatly affect the success of a business.
Effective communication is more than just being able to give clear orders to your team members. It’s being able to listen to their needs and feedback; being able to resolve misunderstandings by simply talking things over; making team members feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts and ideas; and overall, making the team more productive and efficient because of the way you communicate.
Different people have different ways of working. Managers must be able to adapt their management style to what works best for each member of the team. They must also be adaptable to change, be it in technology, processes, practices, or mindset. In order to stay relevant and competitive, businesses must find ways to improve year after year. Managers must be flexible enough to not only accept these changes, but plan for them and rally behind them.
Empathy is the ability to take on and understand other people’s emotions and perspectives, and is a very powerful leadership skill. It breaks down barriers between managers and their team members. When managers can see through their people’s eyes and walk in their shoes, they can better understand what people need, and why people make different decisions.
When you develop empathy, you are able to tell when someone is no longer happy with their work; or if they are frustrated, anxious, burned out, or disengaged. You become more mindful, and more patient with people. It becomes easier to trust one another, and your team members become happier and more engaged because of it.
- Dependability & Consistency
Whenever there are big decisions to be made, milestones to be crossed, or problems to be solved, your team members will look to you. Team members need to know that their leader is stable, secure, and reliable; that they can always count on you. If you are inconsistent with your words and actions as a leader, your dependability falters and your team members will think twice about approaching you again.
You need to be consistent with your work ethic, emotional steadiness, the way you handle problems, offer praise and rewards, commitments, and your availability.
- Honesty & Transparency
Honesty and transparency are the pillars of healthy and admirable team-management relationships. These can greatly strengthen the trust and loyalty of team members to their leader, but can be difficult to achieve for many. Company policy may dictate that you do not disclose all information with your team members. That’s fine and understandable, so long as you are honest to your team about it instead of making excuses, telling white lies, or avoiding crucial conversations altogether. Simply be straightforward when someone asks you a question that you aren’t prepared to answer.
Remember that being honest and in a potentially uncomfortable moment with your team is always better than being dishonest. The latter can negatively affect your relationship with your team members, your business success, and their careers in the long run as a result.
- Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is crucial for solving problems and making decisions, and as a manager you’ll need to do plenty of both. These situations often require complex analysis and decisiveness; recognition of potential problems, challenges, opportunities and choices; forecasting and more. By focusing on the issues at hand and practicing critical thinking, managers are often able to make better, more impactful decisions.
It takes confidence to become an effective leader. When you’re confident, it’s easier to make decisions and influence others. You’re less anxious about everything that could go wrong, because you know you have the skills and smarts to get through whatever challenges may come your way.
There are many other soft skills that can be very useful to managers, such as resourcefulness, kindness, organization, and more. Keep tuning in to our blog to learn how to develop these soft skills, and learn more about team management, team skills development, as well as IT staff augmentation and IT staff outsourcing.