How Much Have You Invested In Your Employees’ Soft Skills?

BY C. Lee Smith
Featured image for “How Much Have You Invested In Your Employees’ Soft Skills?”

Has it happened again? You made a statement, and someone misunderstood you. Now, your team members’ feelings are hurt, and people are gossiping.

We all process information through our own lens. And we bring our personal history and perspective to events we witness. It can also feel emotionally satisfying to blame someone else for our problems and to shun those people. 

But to succeed in organizational life and to develop a positive culture, we must learn to be more objective. That means working on our soft skills. Here’s what Jan Allen, executive coach and life strategist at businessofpeople​.com, shared with us on that topic during a recent Manage Smarter podcast.

Organizational Truth

When you’re tempted to react to something a team member has told you, hold back. Now is the time to get at what Allen calls organizational truth. Each person will have their own perspective on an event. Whether it was a dust-​up over a parking space or a staff member being confronted about doing a poor job cleaning the break room, people will have varying points of view about what happened. 

These varying viewpoints come about because team members don’t have the level of awareness they need to be honest brokers of information. They may not have been trained to think differently about what happened or to consider the incident from another person’s perspective. Even worse, they may manipulate the truth to get a desired outcome.

Manager Responsibility

Managers can take steps to improve these situations. In most organizations, managers focus on getting the job done. In their one-​on-​one sessions with team members, they measure progress toward goals. Has the employee finished designing the next piece of code? Or have they made 10 follow-​up calls every day? 

Tracking these details is part of management responsibility. All too often, managers ignore the need to develop the soft skills of team members. When this happens, interactions between team members can turn into arguments. Often, the tensions don’t get resolved. Instead, employees turn to sideways conversations. They speak poorly of each other. They can only see the situation through their own narrow lens. The end result is a drop in civility and employee engagement. 

Soft Skill Development

If you want to build a more cohesive team, set aside time in your one-​on-​one meetings to work on soft skills. When an employee has engaged in a dispute with a peer, encourage them to think about what happened from the other person’s point of view. Ask them to come up with ways to address and resolve the issue. The resolution process should also involve face-​to-​face interaction. These days, it’s easy to use text and email to avoid real interaction. When employees can see facial expressions during a conversation, they have a better read on intent.

The bottom line is employees don’t have to be friends. But since they spend one-​third of their lives at work, they should focus on making the environment positive and healthy. In that kind of work culture, productivity becomes the focus and that’s exactly where you want your team members to be.