We'll study our technical know-how -but try to manage people without 'soft skills'
OK, imagine you are going for a better job. Impressed with your academic credentials and excellent career-to-date, the interviewer lobs in a ‘soft-skills’ hand grenade:
“So, tell us about a time when you successfully won an argument with a colleague without raising your voice”.
No ready answer? Your chances go up in smoke.
It is plausible enough. According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), it is employability skills that make a difference in the workplace – which is why the recruiters are looking out for them. But these soft skills are not tested by examination and are rarely easy to substantiate on a C.V. yet they make the difference between a successful career and a stalled one.
And if you are thinking of setting-up your own business and need to employ some people – try making any money without those “soft skills”. So, what are they? “Soft skills” include:
• "Teamwork." And that doesn’t mean you employ a dozen people. A ‘doubles’ in tennis is as much a team as you and a secretary.
• "Negotiation." OK, so you can win a ‘big money deal’, maybe get a ‘good deal’ on your car. But try the same techniques with someone you work beside every day and you’ll soon end-up as ‘Billy No-Mates’ unable to get anything done!
• "Decision-making." Easy when you know best; this is why your technical know-how is crucial. But try that with someone that knows more about an element of the matter than you do – like your finance or legal people – and you can come unstuck.
• "Communication skills, rapport, mediation." It’s funny, isn’t it? We can interact with customers or suppliers (depending on your technical job) yet struggle to deal with our staff (because we think they are a captive audience). I’ve never met an organization that felt its internal communication was ‘all it could be’.
• “Building Motivation”. Try to get something done through another if they can’t be bothered – and you’ll fail.
• “Building Ability” If they don’t know what to do – how can anyone help you achieve your goals?
• “Building Confidence” Try to get an individual or team to perform well if they are not confident – and you’ll expire trying.
And of course, “soft skills” are fundamental to your success in two other key areas.
• "Customer Service." Technically competent but an inability to empathize, negotiate, communicate, and you lose money.
• "Leadership." Such skills are needed aplenty to inspire people to follow you as you build a department or firm.
Have a look at our section on Better Managers to get further ideas Now, while management training might not be top of your organization’s investment aims in 2013, I bet you still aim to get the best out of your people. So, a short review of sound management practice might be just what your managers need to gain some pretty practical ideas on not being a ‘Muppet’ when trying to be a manager!