Why bother with “Soft Skills” training for leaders

leadership development skills gap soft skills Jan 20, 2022

We’ve been thinking about leadership development quite a lot this week.  Not unusual in our line of work you might think, but in a meeting last week we were asked whether businesses should bother with ‘soft skills’ training for senior team members.

An interesting question… 

Soft skills are essentially what accompany the hard skills, and help an organisation use its technical expertise to full advantage.   The problem is that ‘soft skills’ as a term isn’t one that is synonymous with leadership development.   

‘Unfortunately, some people believe that soft skills aren’t that important…almost every employer I’ve ever talked to about this disagrees. In a world where job roles are changing rapidly, soft skills will be one of the few constants’ – Chris Jones, Chief Executive at City & Guilds 

Growing Focus on Soft Skills Training 

Even as business practices evolve through automation and artificial intelligence (AI), soft skills like creativity, agile thinking, communication and collaboration will stay in high demand.  Research shows that gaps in soft skills exist across all roles and nearly all functions, and organizations in all industries are responding by providing a variety of forms of training. 

Essentially, we believe there are three key identifiers or ‘gap’ scenarios: 

  1. If you’re really good at getting clients but not so good at retaining them, chances are you have a soft skills gap.  
  2. If you have high staff turnover and have to keep recruiting and retraining people, chances are you have a soft skills gap.  
  3. When you have some good managers but no real leaders…yes, you’ve got it – that’s a soft skills gap. 

We all know that soft skills are not learned in a one-off training event. To truly develop these skills, employees need multiple training experiences over an extended period of time to learn and practice them. 

Forget the ‘soft’ and concentrate on the ‘skills’.  As a leader, if you cannot capitalise on the wealth of knowledge, experience and proficiency within your organisation, then you should be assessing the level of interpersonal skills that are (or are not) present. 

The workplace has changed. It’s important to recognise the vital role soft skills play within teams and organisations.  You need to not only work on developing them within yourself, but encourage their development throughout the organisation.

That’s what fosters great team performance, and leads people to contribute strongly to the organisation’s vision and strategy. 

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