Soft…Real Soft: Managers need a full skill set, not just hard skills

by Lynn Lochbihler

“People don't quit their companies, they quit their bosses.” How many times have you heard that phrase? It's rare that a corporate entity of any size upsets an employee so much that they feel quitting is the only option. One bad manager, however, can empty out an entire department within weeks.

It’s all too easy to imagine a scenario where a manager doesn't have the skills to motivate his staff or help them feel engaged. In fact, we’ve heard of many situations where one manager brought employee morale down so low it essentially shut down the organization!

Once employees start leaving and talking to friends and family about their experiences at work, word quickly gets around that it was a bad organization to work for. When something like this starts, it can very easily snowball out of control to the point where the company is basically shut down. Not literally, but a severe morale crisis can slow down productivity to the point where you might as well lock up and turn out the lights. And all because of one leader that didn't know how to build healthy relationships with staff.

Managers have a lot of influence on individual employees and also on the corporate culture as a whole. This influence can be either positive or negative. When it’s negative, the organization is in serious trouble.

Approaching employees openly and honestly enables them to feel comfortable with their manager and at ease. One of the best ways to really engage employees is to ask them for their input to problem solving. If you never ask them for their advice or suggestions, they will never feel comfortable or engaged, no matter how much you pat them on the back for a job well done or give them clear direction.

To manage people effectively, managers need to broaden their role. Not only must they be a decision maker, but a catalyst, coach, and facilitator as well. Many management experts say the answer is to ask more questions and do less telling. In other words, a manager needs to develop his or her “soft” skills just as much as the “hard” skills. For example, a bakery manager may know everything there is to know about the chemistry of baking and oven technology, but his soufflés will still fall flat if he doesn’t know the ways in which his team members differ, and which supervisory style will elicit the desired employee behaviors and outcomes.

This is something HR professionals can help with. The right coaching and training can turn a manager with poor people management skills into a motivational powerhouse, encouraging and empowering staff to work harder, reach further, and dream bigger than ever before.



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