As a leadership coach and trainer, one of the questions I’m asked most often is “How do I know if my leaders are lacking soft skills?” It’s a great question and one that I will aim to answer here. The truth is, there are many signs that can indicate a need for more soft skills development, I’ll describe a few below.
Let’s start with the basics…what are soft skills? Soft skills are non-technical skills that enable a person to interact with others effectively and harmoniously, according to the Oxford definition. The short answer, then, is that there is always room for improvement in that skill set. Some organizations focus only on providing hard skills or technical job-related training to their employees and neglect the softer side. Here are some of the signs that you might observe in your team if your leaders are truly lacking in this area.
Burnout is a tricky factor to identify because it can show up in a number of ways. The most common example is visible to the naked eye- stressed out, exhausted, maybe even wearing the same shirt as yesterday. Burnout in your managers can also show up as boredom, disengagement, or disorganization. Many of these factors stem from a lack of proficiency with supervisory tasks like delegating, providing meaningful feedback and time management. If your managers are lacking soft skills, you will likely see their direct reports burning out as well.
2. Underperformance or underdevelopment
One of the key responsibilities we place on our leaders is to develop the people who report to them. Great leaders empower their followers to be even more effective and to push beyond their own perceived limits. Effectively developing your direct reports requires relationship building, trust, communication, and connection. If your employees aren’t achieving their goals, or are underperforming compared to their peers, chances are it’s not just them. Underperformance by subordinates is often directly linked to a lack of effective leadership.
Turnover is one of the strongest indicators of a problem in an organization. Some turnover is natural, but excessive turnover or an increase in turnover can be cause for concern. Lack of soft skills in managers and supervisors creates an environment that makes it difficult for team members to thrive. If your team doesn’t see opportunities for professional growth and development, or if their motivators aren’t aligned with either the company or their direct supervisor, they’re likely to start looking for it elsewhere.