Leading and Managing a team could be easier but the development of ‘soft skills’ is often underestimated or just not considered important.

Through years of being a team member and for more than twenty-five years of leading and managing a range of teams, I have discovered the benefits of developing soft skills.

In the early part of my working life it was a subconscious awareness, now I use these skills with intent.
Through observing others who have gained respect from their teams and those who work hard to create a workplace that is happy and motivated, I have been able to acquire much more knowledge and understanding. I have also had my own success with what I know works well. There is much to learn and to understand.

Consider for yourself, what is important when you are leading and managing a team?

I want my team to be happy, committed, motivated, enthusiastic, positive and creative and to work effectively together, using their skills to achieve success for themselves and for the organisation.

If you feel that you are not quite there yet, it can be achieved with a few simple modifications to habits and behaviours, and with dedication and consistency in approaches to common problems.

Over time, I have established with other leaders the main issues that impact on a team’s ability to be effective.

Often it is a lack of confidence in more junior or inexperienced managers; struggles with conflict situations and knowing how to manage these; dealing with difficult situations; addressing staff weaknesses; perhaps a lack of effective communication skills or just not being able to provide constructive criticism when needed.

All these elements impact on the effectiveness of a manager, create unrest and discord in a team and in the worst-case scenarios can create toxic workplaces.

I decided to create a series of bite-sized introductory workshops covering these topics and have learnt so much more about the developmental needs of many existing leaders and managers, the struggles and often fears.

One attendee commented; “The training was tailored to what we needed which was excellent”.

Keep in mind that there are different ways of achieving the same outcome. It will depend on team members skills and ability as well as the team dynamics, and there will be many other influences; the culture of the organisation and the personalities of those that work within it.

Another has commented; “I have learnt that it is okay to be myself and still manage well” (so true). “I picked up lots of useful ways to help me to do this”.

Here are my priorities for the skills to work on if you are not quite where you want to be in leading and managing your team along with comments from those that have been willing to share their views through attendance at the workshops:

Here are some simple steps that you can take right now:

Develop your emotional intelligence or EQ

This is my number one priority. This means your self-awareness, self-management, your management of relationships and your social awareness.

If you can develop these elements, then you will have a strong set of ‘soft skills’ that most certainly will go some way to creating a more effective and harmonious workforce.

“The workshops were full of information and have helped me to develop as a room leader and work on areas I never would have considered”.

EQ is about considering the impact that you have on others.

Do you put people at ease or are people generally wary of you?

In any situation – put yourself in the other person’s shoes – how might they be feeling? What are the repercussions for them? Think about this and be empathetic.

EQ can also be observing body language (your own and other peoples); how people behave around you.

Be prepared to match and mirror this to help put a person at ease – if it’s appropriate to do so of course – although don’t make it too obvious. That would have the opposite effect.

EQ involves listening to people attentively and hearing what they say.

Make eye contact, concentrate and give the person time to talk or respond to questions.

EQ entails keeping your emotions in check.

If you are angry or frustrated it’s no good raising your voice and shouting – this can easily intimidate people and create defensiveness, lack of engagement or loss of confidence in the person on the receiving end.

Use more open-ended questions in your communication

Questions that start with how, why, when, what, who, explain or describe. This works well, opens a conversation and can help you to acquire another person’s view. Think about the preferences of the person that you are communicating with. Do they prefer written instructions to carry out a task or to be shown how to do something?

Deal with difficult situations and conflicts calmly and urgently.

Ensure you are fair and non-judgemental. Don’t bury your head in the sand and let things fester – read articles and put conflict resolution strategies into practice.  Monitor and take any appropriate follow up action.

“I feel I have grown in confidence through the course. I have learnt a range of strategies to put in place to allow me to be the best manager I can be”.

Perhaps you or your staff could benefit from a practical course with some theoretical back up to support you with developing your leadership and management skills. Please check the link for the next series or workshops.