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Do You Have Soft Skills?

Soft-Skills-Leadership

Do you have soft skills?

Most leaders who have led for any length of time know something about strategic planning, problem-solving, vision-casting, or spreadsheets. Those qualities are often considered some of the “hard skills” of leading. But what about the soft skills?

Soft skills are defined by personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.

Soft skills include categories such as character traits, attitudes, and emotional intelligence. Largely, soft skills define your leadership presence.

Many leaders and employees used to ignore the “soft skills” aspect of work. Organizations would tolerate bad leadership behavior if the results were right. Not anymore.

A few months ago the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled, Hard to Find: Workers with Good Soft Skills. The writer, Kate Davidson, called soft skills the most sought-after skill set today. Most 21-st century organizations work collaboratively within and without. Employees must be able to work effectively in teams. Leaders must know how to lead teams. Sometimes these teams are co-located and at other times they are virtual. The need for a foundation comprised of character and a stabilizing emotional presence is critical to be able to relate well and share leadership.

According to Davidson’s article, Linkedin did a thorough analysis of what soft skills are most required today—here they are: the ability to communicate (and hold a conversation), the to ability to organize, a capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity, and adaptability. By the way—the ability to communicate rose above all other desired traits. The article concludes by saying that the need for these skills are only going to increase—and employees are desperate for them.

Monster.com makes three recommendations for how to obtain soft skills: take a course—to gain an intellectual understanding of the skills you need, seek out mentors—on the specific skills you need to develop, and volunteer—working at or for a non-profit will always increase your soft skills experientially.

Where do you need to improve?

Eradicating The Blame Game

small__405633410It is not uncommon to see medium to large organizations get caught in the blame game. This is where different teams or departments blame their lack of effectiveness on another team or department. It is not unusual to see individuals on a team blame each other for a lack of results. It sounds like this, “If only the other guy would get his act together, than I could succeed in what I am being asked to do.” Or it may sound like this, “If only that other department truly knew and understood what we do, then they would be much more agreeable to working together and helping meet our needs.” I see this at times in my own organization.

The end result of the blame game is a lack of trust. People value their own work, and may even generally like their co workers in another department, but they don’t trust them to do the right thing or add value. This creates silos and getting work done via crony relationships. But 21st century leadership requires cooperation and collaboration. We need to be about creating healthy cultures of personal responsibility and interdependency. Ultimately, the blame game serves to erode the leadership and work culture of any organization.

I think there are three major considerations to eradicating the blame game.

1. Directional Clarity.

Has top level leadership provided overall directional clarity?

Do all teams and departments understand the top three directional priorities?

What can you personally do to lead up or down to bring this kind of clarity to every team and department?

If there is a lack of directional clarity then there is nothing to rally around. Teams and departments will automatically compete for resources through the “loudest voice” approach.

I categorically believe that the number one daily function of every leader is to make sure that organizational “magnetic north” is always clear.

Is every person able to communicate the top organizational priorities and are the able to see where their unique contribution fits in the accomplishment of those priorities?

2. Clean Lines of Authority.

Who are the ultimate decision makers for every team and department?

Who are the overall organizational decision makers?

Authority is about how who holds the power to make decisions.

When lines of authority are confusing, barriers are immediately erected to cooperation and collaboration.

Do the right people report to the right people?

Are teams and departments aligned correctly for the effective and efficient functioning of the organization?

Have the right people been empowered to act? 

3. Shared Goals.

This is closely akin to the first consideration.

Are organizational goals dictated or are the appropriate teams and departments allowed to speak into those goals?

Without shared goals there really is no compelling reason to cooperate and collaborate.

Aiming for shared goals forces better communication and understanding.

It cultivates ownership, and therefore perpetuates best efforts, best practices, and shared learning. This can even lead to a great sense of shared leadership. 

Shared goals can foster a healthy sense of dependency on other teams and departments to get the job done. 

To “blame” means to “find fault with, to hold another responsible for the bad that happens.”

Leaders are truly the ones who are responsible when blaming becomes epidemic. Is a culture of blame growing up around you? Maybe it is time to run a diagnostic to better determine the clarity of your direction, the cleanness of your lines of authority, and the degree to which you are promoting shared goals. You could begin with some of the questions above.

What else would you add to this analysis?

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