All managers need certain technical skills, also known as hard skills. Depending on your industry, these might include strategic planning, cloud computing, or marketing. But these talents are not enough on their own. To truly be an effective leader, you also need a variety of soft skills. Here is what you should know.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are transferrable across any industry. They are sometimes known as “people skills,” and are the things you need to manage a team and keep projects moving smoothly and effectively. These skills are tough to measure or quantify, but developing them will make you far more effective immediately.
How Can Soft Skills Make Me a More Effective Manager?
Think about the things you do at work every day. How much of your time is dedicated to group meetings? What about one on ones with individual employees? Do your tasks include setting and enforcing project deadlines? Are you the person that team members come to when they need help with a work issue or are experiencing a personal crisis?
If you take the time to analyze what you actually spend your time on, you will likely find that the tasks that require hard skills take up only a small portion of your day. For most managers, people management and project management are at the top of the priority list. And those are exactly the job duties that require soft skills. Building those skills will help you work more efficiently and more productively, while gaining the trust and loyalty of your employees.
What Are the Top Soft Skills I Need to Develop?
There are a lot of soft skills to choose from, and no one could possibly master them all. If you want to boost your effectiveness as a leader quickly, try focusing on these:
Teams had to pivot on a dime when the world shut down due to the global pandemic. But in the post-pandemic era, flexibility remains extremely important. As a manager, you are going to face innumerable situations that simply don’t go as planned. Maybe a key employee gets the flu right before a big deadline. Or a customer radically changes the design specs. Perhaps a vendor doesn’t ship a desperately needed component on time. When things don’t go as you expected, flexibility is what will keep you and your team moving in the right direction.
Today’s workers also expect flexibility. Some may be working from home. Others might need compressed schedules. Or they may have sudden issues such as childcare or transportation problems. The more flexible you are in general, the more you will be able to help your team members develop flexible solutions that work for them.
Flexibility is key, but it’s not enough on its own. You will also need to be able to think on your feet and quickly offer strong solutions to problems that arise. Your team and senior leadership are counting on you to figure out ways to move forward despite the obstacles. Problem-solving has many different components that may vary by industry, but it always involves the ability to assess a situation and apply critical thinking to arrive at an answer that works for everyone. You will also need to stay calm and collected under pressure, as you can’t solve a problem when you are freaking out about it.
For most managers, speaking and writing are nearly constant parts of the job. But are you an effective communicator? Communication can be surprisingly complex, and mistakes are common. It all starts with choosing the right communication method—should you send an email or a text message? Bring everyone into the office for a face-to-face meeting or organize something through videoconferencing. Then you need to think about the message you want to convey and the best way to frame it for your specific audience.
But no matter how you are communicating or who you are communicating with, some basic guidelines apply:
- Be as clear as possible.
- Seek consensus rather than conflict.
- Practice active listening techniques, such as clarifying and restating what you heard.
- Aim for two-way feedback.
- Recognize and respect individual differences in communication styles.
The modern workplace is more collaborative and less siloed than ever before. Effective managers view themselves as part of a complex team in which everyone’s input is valued. It may be up to you to make final decisions, but it’s vital to lead by example and entertain a variety of viewpoints rather than simply giving orders without explanation. And never ask your employees to do anything that you are unwilling to do yourself.
Management is a tough job, with a lot of conflicting demands on your time. But if you make the effort to develop a few key soft skills, you can quickly become a more effective leader.
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At Patel Consultants, we specialize in finding employers the talent they need for roles in IT, engineering, project management and more. If you’re looking for your next contract or permanent employee in New Jersey, contact us today to learn how we can help!