“Mike is very skilled at what he does – one of the best, actually. The problem is, no one wants to work with him… or even be around him. And it’s starting to cost us.”
I could feel my prospective client’s pain through the phone. Sydney’s call was the type of call I get a lot in my line of work. Office politics, drama, and contrasting personalities are a reality in our increasingly diverse workplaces, and the benefits of a happy, cohesive workplace are often downplayed or undervalued – until there is a breaking point.
“Looking at it objectively,” she continued, “I understand why the younger staff are so put off. Mike is a classic micromanager and poor communicator to boot. Then he feels the frustration of a perpetual cycle of training, but not retaining our emerging team members.”
Sydney was relatively new in her leadership role within the software development company, and Mike had been a manager for a couple years before she arrived. She explained that according to upper management, it had taken 3 years to find the ‘right person’ for Mike’s highly technical role.
She summarized the situation perfectly in saying, “Technical people are hard to find, but it’s the soft skills that are needed to succeed.”
Soft skills are intangible, productive behaviours, traits, and actions enhance all human performance and interaction, and are sometimes referred to as core skills, essential skills, and my personal favorite, ‘human skills’.
Examples of human skills include: communication; problem solving; creativity and innovation; collaboration and teamwork; social influence and persuasion; critical thinking and decision making; along with a suite of leadership skills.
The hard truth about soft skills is that these universal skills have a direct impact on your own performance and productivity, as well as make working with others easier and more fun. And when things are easier and more fun, we tend to do them with more enjoyment and energy and feel more connected and engaged. And that translates to higher profit.
If higher profits resulting from enhanced soft skills seems like a stretch, I’ll point back to a simple example from Sydney and Mike. Their emerging department within their large organization is still establishing themselves, and their main pipeline for work is other internal departments.
However, those other internal departments retain the ability to engage outside consultants to do the same work as Sydney’s team. In this case, Mike’s absence of human skills was costing the company because the relationships between those internal staff members and external consultants was stronger, and ultimately they are easier to work with.
With the rise of automation, artificial intelligence, ‘the internet of things’ and related shifts, the world is currently experiencing the 4th industrial revolution. That rapid evolution through technological breakthroughs is having a deep affect on the tasks performed by our workforce.
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