Last time we explored how organizations can put empathy, purpose, flexibility and culture at the center of their leadership. Doing so will inevitably drive a thriving culture with improved business outcomes including enhanced talent retention. An empathetic, thoughtful leader who truly builds and models the practices they want their teams to share is bound for success.
This time we’ll explore how skills investment can support these efforts. Of course, upgrading a variety of technical and functional skills is always smart. Continual training and upskilling can create opportunities for internal mobility (our next topic), but we will focus on the managerial soft skills needed for improved employee engagement and retention.
In general, leaning-in to supporting and developing managers will pay dividends. The goal is to support an environment of joyful pursuit of discovery. An environment where learning and growth are encouraged; where managers help their team discover new abilities.
Soft Skills take the Lead
The soft skills needed to do this work include empathy (surprise!), coaching and self-care. We discussed empathy last time – managers who are able to connect and understand their team’s needs and goals will more effectively help their teams discover their superpowers and build new skills.
Empathy and understanding naturally pass the baton to coaching. Building leaders adept at teaching, testing, and tweaking creates a virtuous cycle. In time, everyone develops the skills and confidence to guide one another and lead by example. Permission structures are built to encourage experimentation and road maps for personal growth become clear.. This shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Effective coaching identifies the differences in learning styles and an individual’s capacity to apply new skills and the rate of discovery.
We all know or have had managers who put their whole selves into their job. As if working around the clock was a badge of honor. They are martyrs, not managers. For some managers it may work for much of their careers, but it’s not sustainable nor is it an approach any organization should embrace.
Pre-pandemic, self-care was gaining traction but the pandemic is accelerating this trend. The evidence is mounting that healthy employees are the highest performers. Imagine what thriving health might do to performance. Managers now need to bring this mindset for themselves and their teams. Intentional practice towards thriving mental and physical health, aligned with age and life goals will become a desired trait in leaders. Supporting leadership with wellness and health with space and training will prove to be a worthy investment.
Skills vs. Rolls
There’s a familiar trope of the person who continues to fail upward because they know the right people and shake the right hands. A thriving, well-coached team will help to counter that in your organization. Good leaders, adept at understanding the individual strengths of their team members, will be far better suited to make sure the right people are on track for promotion and growth.
As diversity, equity and inclusion have become important organizational goals, the move towards limiting biases in hiring and promotion comes quickly into sharp relief. Hiring managers must be equipped with the tools and knowledge to effectively assess people, focusing on the skills and experience a candidate or employee brings vs. “who they are” or how “likable” they are. A skills assessment and investment focused approach will level-up the organization as well as reduce implicit bias.
Taken as a whole, building out a system for consistent, clear career growth will keep your team engaged and most importantly productive. Building that growth road map for each team member is a highly individual endeavor that will take managers who have the skills and support to have those conversations consistently and be able to execute on those career growth needs. It’s not an easy task, but the payoff can be significant. And, despite everyone’s best efforts, good people will still choose to see if the grass is greener elsewhere. Don’t get discouraged – It’s still worth the effort.
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