Stephen Walker concludes his pieces about what soft skills can do for an organisation and how to develop them.
Why are soft skills important?
People are not machines to be administered. Soft skill-based management powers people’s willingness to work. Think how useful a computer is without software. People run internal programs created by their work environment and boss. The manager uses soft skills to make the programs beneficial to the business. This allows proper delegation freeing the manager from frequent oversight. You save time. Delegating to the right level of information richness maximises the timeliness and quality of decisions. Your business is a better, more quickly adapting match to the ever changing environment.
The use of soft skills in a business brings an incredible increase in people’s willingness to help. I am very disparaging of the need to hold employee engagement surveys, which is what we are discussing fundamentally. If you manage properly, soft skill-based in other words, the workforce respond so positively that there is no question about how much employee engagement there might be. Surveys are only useful when you are so poor at soft skill management that your engagement factor is between 0 and 1, on a scale of 100.
Soft skilled management produces better faster decisions, a more willing workforce, frees up a lot of management time and is astoundingly performance enhancing. By that I mean capacity and profit enhancing. If soft skilled managers can achieve all this why doesn’t every business have it?
How soft skills are developed
Human relationships, the manager-employee relationship, are based on a level of trust. We all know the maxim 'people buy from people they like' and it is more certain that 'people work for people they like': work being trying to achieve something, not just turning up and looking busy. Trust is an essential component, so how do you learn to be trustworthy? Most of your character is formed in your childhood. Are children brought up to be dishonest? I don’t think so. Parents do sometimes 'train' their children that dishonesty pays though. We do severely undervalue the skill of parenting.
Adults can be taught to be trustworthy. It requires explanation of the positives and negatives of the alternate behaviours. A bigger factor that I see in my development workshops is fear. Managers are afraid to be open to honest communication because they feel inadequate and are scared their staff or boss will find out. Such managers usually work for a KITA-style manager themselves, not one with soft skills. Fear disables performance. It does take courage, self-esteem and a supportive environment to be open and honest.
You can learn these skills in experiential workshops and in your workplace if supportive. Frankly both learning opportunities are necessary. In the maelstrom of daily work it is very difficult to develop the skills unaided. The calm only comes after the soft skills are in use up and down in the business. You have to invest the effort to get through the storm to the calm.
Business is about performance, achieving the results you want. Performance = Expertise x Application of effort. The 'Application of effort' is largely due to the willingness to make voluntary effort created by soft skilled management. The difference between an organisation based around soft skilled or 'normal' management techniques is massive: highly accomplished enthusiastic people or clock watching 'doing my job' lost souls waiting for home time. Of course you can run an organisation without soft skills. They are an option. But then so is survival.
Stephen is a co-founder of Motivation Matters, set up in 2004 to develop organisation behaviour to drive greater performance. He has worked for notable organisations such as Corning, De La Rue and Buhler and has been hired to help Philips, Lloyds TSB and a raft of others. A published author of articles and Conference speaker, Stephen delivers workshops across the country. It is all about “making people more effective by appropriate managerial behaviour” he says. You can follow Stephen on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Blog