A New Kind of Leader: Balancing Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Companies rely on their leaders for guidance: to set the culture of the organization, to build and maintain real relationships with employees and clients, and to know what it takes to succeed—both financially and otherwise. It’s likely that your leaders have earned their place at the top by working fastidiously at their careers, and by proving they have the skills to do their job well. But recently, when asked about research on the skills leaders and other employees are lacking, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner was quoted as saying, “Interpersonal skills is where we’re seeing the biggest imbalance… communication is the number one skills gap.”
While your leaders have shown that they have the technical skills to run your company, they may lack the soft skills required to communicate, create meaningful relationships, and inspire others—all crucial aspects of maintaining engagement and avoiding costly turnover. Check in with your leaders about their comfort level when it comes to these skills:
1. Coaching others: Leadership is about more than just meeting a financial goal. Your leaders need to be aware that they’re constantly building the next generation of leaders. Are they invested in their teams’ growth? Do they seek out coaching moments every day to pass along their expertise and correct any potential problems? Does the feedback they provide motivate their team members, positively reinforce good behavior, and support active change? Coaching and development opportunities are extremely important to young members of the workforce. In fact, a recent global survey found that one of the top five reasons people quit their jobs is because of a lack of development opportunities. And knowing how to give constructive feedback isn’t easy.
2. Using personal stories to build relationships: Stories connect people in ways that regular language doesn’t. Storytelling is proven to command attention, enhance memory, emotionally “light up” the listener’s brain, and drive action spurred by personal connection. It’s a powerful tool in a business world where clients have access to so many other options and so much information, and where 75% of workers today quit their jobs because of their bosses. Your leaders need to be using every skill possible to engage both their own teams and clients—because competition has never been stronger.
3. Communicating remotely: Remote work is at an all-time high, with most workers today remote at least one day a week. Your leaders need to be able to engage their teams even when they can’t interact with them face-to-face. Nobody wants to receive a mile-long email with hidden action requests and deadlines. Nobody wants to sit in on an agenda-less, vague call when they aren’t even sure anyone knows they’re there. That means it’s crucial to develop virtual presence skills for conference calls or video chats and work on making written communication as clear and strategic as possible.
Start by having a conversation with your leaders to gauge how comfortable they are with the skills mentioned here. As leaders, they’ve dealt with all kinds of situations and problems—but they may also need some brushing up or professional guidance of their own. Let Ariel help.