NZIM MANAGING: Hard Facts of Soft Skills Management?; While Current Economic Conditions Continue to Challenge Organisational Leaders and to Impact Negatively on Bottom-Line Profitability, There Are Valuable Lessons about Management Styles That Can Be Learned, Writes Kevin Vincent

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Byline: Kevin Vincent

In todaya[euro]s turbulent economic times we read so much about downsizing, re-engineering, reorganisation, deployments and the numerous variations of organisational structures that directors and managers turn to in their search to rationalise, stabilise or create a solid foundation for future success and growth.

But, I believe the greatest and most constructive impact will be felt when leaders and managers better recognise the importance of what has become known as soft skills leadership in management.

The more turmoil and stress a company faces, the more important the soft skills capability of its leadership and management team becomes.

Typical issues that many companies face include:

a[euro]cents Motivating colleagues as they face uncertain futures.

a[euro]cents Attempting to communicate clearly and provide rationale for organisational change.

a[euro]cents Developing and retaining staff at appropriate levels to achieve more with less.

a[euro]cents Meeting ever-increasing customer demands.

To deal with these transitional issues leaders and managers need to:

a[euro]cents Be honest and proactive with their communication.

a[euro]cents Listen well and demonstrate empathy and sensitivity with employees.

a[euro]cents Be prepared to explain the rationale behind decisions that impact on others (tough love).

One of the most significant lessons of the many I have learned in my career, is the need to continually practise soft skills management. The need to re-read emails before hitting the send button; to think about how others receive or might perceive what I am saying; and, the need to always demonstrate good values and ethical behaviours.

As our business environments become increasing volatile, leaders need to demonstrate soft skills attributes to successfully lead the company through the chaotic times. Sadly, few business schools bother to teach techniques to cultivate appropriate soft skills. We live in a society that measures intelligence through quantitative psychological measures, such as Myers Briggs. Management students might also get a good grade for answering a specific question correctly, but how do we measure being able to deal with the varied and different situations that require compassion, empathy, trusting and the capacity to deal with the unexpected everyday problems that crop up.

Effective leaders must develop cultures of unified commitment whilst being simultaneously aware of the many cultural differences that exist in our work places. By doing this, effective managers and leaders build trust and establish credibility with their colleagues.

History tells us that at the turn of the last century there was much written about the a[euro]scientific management theorya[euro] of Frederick Taylor, a time and motion advocate who espoused the careful specification measurement of all organisational tasks. Then Max Weber embellished the a[euro]scientific managementa[euro] theory with his a[euro]bureaucratica[euro] theory that focused on having organisations with hierarchies and strong lines of authority of control with operating procedures for recognised tasks.

Today we inhabit the era of the human resource movement. My friend and well-respected management guru Wilf Jarvis may call this the a[euro]peoplea[euro] period. Stakeholders in all organisations are less inclined to incorporate the dehumanising effects of those previous periods with more attention now given to employees as colleagues. The engagement of our colleagues is a key fundamental to achieving business success through unified cultures.

Todaya[euro]s business world is undeniably complex. The plethora of matrix structures in business, seemingly open and free market access, an aging workforce, cultural diversity and equal employment opportunities for all, presents a mosaic of particular and often stressful challenges. …