On the surface, the term “soft skills” doesn’t evoke feelings of strength and leadership. Just the opposite, in fact. It sounds feeble and mundane.
In reality, however, soft skills are what define your success. They are what set you apart from the rest, establishing yourself as a leader.
Consider the definition - “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Another source defines soft skills as your emotional intelligence - skills that are difficult to measure. The great news is that, while they may be hard to measure, they can be learned.
Your success as a workplace manager is contingent on your ability to develop your strengths in all areas of your position. While it’s impossible to be stellar at everything, there are a number of attributes every workplace manager must possess to find long-term success (and encourage others’ success).
Since it would be impossible to list them all, we have outlined some of the most critical soft skills every workplace manager must possess. Some may come naturally to you, while others may pose more of a problem at first. With a little work and self-evaluation, however, you can improve your overall strength and effectiveness.
Empathy - the ability to imagine oneself in another’s shoes. As the workplace manager, one of your primary roles is to find solutions for your workforce’s challenges. To create an engaging environment that sparks innovation. One of the most effective ways of doing so is to understand their plight.
How to get it:
There are a multitude of scientifically proven ways to build up your empathy meter. The first is really quite simple - literally imagine how you would feel if you were in another’s shoes. The next involves clearing your mind by going out into nature and meditating.
You don’t want to simply come out and tell your customers you’re empathetic of their situation; you want to show it. Start by just listening. And follow up with an encouraging phrase like “I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s see what we can do to remedy the situation.”
2) Decision Making
No matter how strong of a leader you are, the art of decision making is tricky. Each decision you make has far-reaching consequences, literally changing the path of our future. As the workplace manager, your choices must be swift, yet backed by data.
How to get it:
While you must remain empathetic in your decisions, it is also important to shelve your own emotions. Consider pros and cons, as well as how your decision will affect those directly involved, both in the short-term and the long-term. And, whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand! Face your dilemma head-on.
3) Effective Communication
Now, this category encompasses a wide range of soft skills and is probably THE single most important for any great leader. Walking the facility, answering emails, and attending meetings - most workplace managers spend a majority of their day communicating. Thus, having solid communication skills is essential to your success.
How to get it:
Sharpening your communication skills isn’t just about speaking on a one-on-one basis. You must be able to write, speak in large groups, speak in a more intimate setting, interview candidates looking to join your team, and learn how to match your tone with the audience.
If writing is your weakness, check out Poynter.Org and Stephen King's Top 7 tips to Becoming a Better Writer. Both offer tips and videos regarding spelling and grammar rules, as well as writing techniques. Also, check with your local college--many of them offer creative writing courses that will help you build on your current writing skills.
If public speaking is not your strong suit, Toastmasters International has a wealth of information on their website on everything from public speaking tips to speech writing techniques. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, they also offer workshops.
Once you’ve found the weak spots in your communication methods, you can adjust and strengthen accordingly. With a little work and empathy, even the most introverted can sharpen their communication skills.
Learning to have healthy, honest conversations is one of the most fundamental skills to being an innovative leader. It is the most critical aspect of building a positive company culture, one that stimulates growth and innovation through trust and positivity, as opposed to fear.
How to get it:
Honesty breeds a candid culture. And this begins, with you. Apply those communication skills we discussed earlier, coupling it with a healthy dose of both humility and self-assuredness.
Joseph Grenny, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance, offers this advice:
- Lead by example - hold hour-long “crucial conversation” sessions. Teach your team how to diffuse emotions, speak candidly, and build rapport amongst colleagues. This not only builds candor amongst teammates, it proves you are professionally invested and committed to the cause.
- Put the ego aside - Many feel that their managers are unapproachable, fearing consequences for open conversations. Encourage your team to be straight with you. By allowing for feedback about oneself, you further prove your commitment and are offered a priceless opportunity to strengthen your own management skills.
- Praise publicly - “Public praise is more about influencing those who hear it than those who receive it.”
Ultimately, successful workplace managers must have a healthy dose of hard and soft skills in their arsenal. We are all works in progress, each with our own individual set of strengths and weaknesses. If you’re looking to improve your ‘A’ game, focus on fortifying these leadership skills. The result, will be an innovative and engaged workforce, ready to learn from their leader.