When I enrolled in UW- Madison University, I was thrilled to study the application of soft skills in the work environment, and the effectiveness of them constructing strong leaders.
That degree was a milestone in my career as a Communicator. During that year, I learned how most soft skills could be grouped into 5 big areas: Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Self-regulated learning, Communication, and Teamwork. Each of these encompasses various skills and perspectives that now, more than ever, are key to hiring candidates, and most importantly, choosing the right Team leaders.
In a Wall Street Journal survey of over 900 executives, 92% reported soft skills, including communication, curiosity, and critical thinking are as important as technical skills. However, 89% of those same executives reported they have a very difficult or somewhat difficult time finding hires with soft skills.
Many people think learning and practicing soft skills is common sense. This is a problem, for it makes individuals believe that they already know all about those skills and that they are a secondary asset in their professional careers.
The IT industry has shown huge growth in the past decade, and part of what makes that evolution possible is the emphasis on creating optimal work environments, with great, purposeful leaders.
It is somehow a common misbelief that professionals with a more technical background, lack soft skills. As said before, we are not born with those, so It is just a matter of practice and dedication.
Ideally, a Team Leader should be trained in soft skills, but what is crucial, is her/his openness to learn and practice daily. We can never reach a knowledge limit on soft skills.
The critical thinker Leader
Critical thinking is often defined as the ability to question our beliefs and assumptions, relieve our experiences, assess our take on different situations, and listen to what others have to say, before making any type of decision. Action must be taken according to the conclusions of this process.
What does it mean daily?
- Analyze the whole picture. To do so, ask everyone who is involved in the day-to-day activities. Make them know their take on things is valuable, and that it is pivotal for you to make decisions.
- Be honest with yourself to evaluate if you’re biased towards something. If you are, ask yourself why, what are the assumptions that drove you to think that way.
- Surround yourself with people you trust. Make sure your team is diverse and that every single person on it, is better than you on their jobs. You are better at leading, they are best in other areas. Recognize that.
The self-regulated learning Leader
Any environment that stimulates learning and growth, needs a leader that thinks of her/himself as a lifelong learner. We don’t get to the Leader role because we know more than others, but because we have a purpose to help and lead, and a hunger to learn from others.
The self-regulated learning Leader wants their team to learn, to grow, and to eventually become leaders themselves. She/he wants to be challenged by their team, for that is the only way they can evolve together.
The communicative Leader
Effective communicators are a rare species. The good news is that anyone can become a better leader and a better communicator.
Good practices for the communicative leader:
- Practice Active Listening. This should be mandatory for everyone, but the role of a leader will not be as effective if this is not trained.
- Your team is not mind-readers. Explain what you need and most importantly, why do you need it. Always give problems to be solved, not just tasks.
- Practice your tone, improve your body language and carefully choose your words.
Not above, not below, but part of the team
Leaders are not above. In more practical terms, when you are above someone, you won’t know what happens inside the team, therefore you will make wrong decisions that show that you are not familiarized with the overall situation.
- Play in the field. It is challenging to be a Leader, mostly because you have to play the match and also be purposeful to motivate the team.
- Effective leaders ask for help. Leaders can’t survive without a team, for they wouldn’t have anyone to lead. So make sure everyone knows you are a team player, and that you consider that to be your number one role.
Soft skills are not an if, but a must, and it is high time every organization makes it a priority to provide its members with the training they need to become better team players.
At Moove It, we believe that purpose and soft skills are key assets, and equally important than technical skills. That’s the only way to be true to one of our core values: quality over quantity.