Managerial Soft Skills

February 19, 2011

Emotional Intelligence Forms an Important Part of Overall Managerial Effectiveness.

Soft Skills – Critical to Success

Managerial soft skills, often referred to as ‘emotional intelligence quotient’ or ‘EQ’, are an important set of skills used to build rapport and establish relationships with key stakeholders and employees.  A Manager’s ability to observe employees body language and emotional expressions, analyze situations, and use the information gathered to guide their thinking and actions plays is an important role in effectively leading others.  It is this set of skills that plays a crucial role in a Managers ability to influence, communicate, and coach employees in any organization.

Influencing & Establishing Rapport

One of the most essential components in a Managers ability to influence others is establishing rapport with employees.  The process of establishing a relationship of trust, respect, and understanding does not always mean that you agree with the employee, but that you listen to and value their input.  This process is critical when attempting to get an employee, boss, or customer to agree to or complete a task that they would traditionally oppose.  Additionally, having a solid relationship as a foundation makes it easier to resolve issues when they arise and avoid future problems or complaints from employees or customers.

Communicating

Effective communication is another important skill that Managers need to refine to ensure success in leading an area or function.  When communicating objectives and deliverables to employees, Managers should be clear in both their expectations and desired results.  This will ensure that all employees know what is expected of them and eliminate confusion in performance or deliverables which can be demoralizing and de-motivating.

Communication is a two way process and both talking and listening play active roles in effective management.  However, situations will arise where a Manager has to more one sided and directive in their approach in an attempt to complete deliverables or get work completed such as under time timelines.  In this type of situation, the Manager has to effectively communicate expectations, organize the employees, and complete the work or deliverables with very little input from others.  In the normal day to day operations, active listening and the ability to ask the right questions to get employees to come to a solution is an important skill for effective management.  Active listening ensures two way communication and shows the employee that they have your attention, understand what they are saying, and appreciate them sharing their information which helps build trust and encourage dialogue.

Managers can also utilize a method called ‘Socratic Questioning’ which probes the employee to answer their own questions by making them think critically and drawing out the answer from them.  This type of questioning not only enhances the employee’s critical thinking skills, but challenges accuracy and completeness of thinking.  Questions such as, ‘Could you put that another way’, ‘What do you mean by that’, ‘Why do you think that is true’, ‘What are you implying by that’, are examples of Socratic questions that will push the employee to think critically and test their own assumptions and hypothesis.

Coaching

Coaching is a skill used by Managers to facilitate the performance, learning, and development of an employee or group of employees.  At its grassroots, coaching is about helping an employee see where they want to get to, where they currently are, and the possibilities and options of getting there.

There are many different types of coaching including self coaching (yourself), bottom up coaching (a boss), lateral coaching (peers), and top down coaching (subordinates).  Independent of the type of coaching, they all share a common goal; guide vision, promote excellence, and empower the one being coached with the tools and knowledge to improve their skill set, performance, and achieve their goals.

Conclusion

Although it is extremely hard to teach Managers how to improve their people skills, there are several techniques that are available to help increase their awareness while interacting with employees.  As a Manager becomes more cognizant of their approach and ability to draw on their soft skills in reading situations and body language, they will be able to develop lasting relationships and rapport with employees and help when communicating and coaching them towards exceptional performance.