I wish I knew…what soft skills my managers need to improve

Soft skills – those of us who research and practice in this domain know they are anything but.  And somehow this nomenclature jibes with the somewhat “fuzzy around the edges” ways that we often diagnose soft skills performance gaps and success factors.  And this leaves leaders and managers unclear on how they are perceived by others, what specifically they might need to improve upon and dare I say, the absence of data analytics can lead to some avoidance around facing up to one’s development areas.

I’ve run decent sized P&Ls over my career.  If my business delivered $30 million in revenue in year 1 and $28.9 million in year 2, I can guarantee that would have got me immediate attention (in not a good way).  And yet, if I was not engaging my teams effectively with an impact of 22% lower productivity and up to 60% less discretionary effort (thank you Gallup for the research), in some organisations I can guarantee my feet would not have been held to the fire in the same way as my $1.1 million revenue shortfall even if the business impact of poor employee engagement might have been 10X larger.

At the Experience Accelerator, we have been working hard to deliver a new way of delivering more specific facts and analytics in the areas of “soft skills”. 

In this first of three part series, we showcase one way of how we can answer “I wish I knew…what soft skills my managers need to improve” with a specific case example.

We worked with a group of high potentials on enhancing their Virtual Executive Presence.  Using our structured virtual learning methodology which includes live role plays, we were able to pinpoint broad strengths across the cohort along with some consistent areas for development.

Our learners did really well in areas like: 

Showing up professionally – consistent with a younger, tech savvy audience, we saw neutral backgrounds and facility with the technical features of the video conferencing platform. 

Leading with positive intent – this was consistently well done and set conversations up constructively from the outset. 

Joint agenda setting:  Learners were eager to engage in joint agenda setting and made time up front to ensure their colleague had the control to add to or shape the agenda according to their needs.

Where we saw room for improvement….

Unbalanced conversations – on average the cohort spoke for 68% of the time during the conversation (vs a target range of 57%-62%).  Our learners fell into the trap of prioritising their own agenda items and sharing too information which meant they left the conversation without uncovering important risks to the project. 

Active listening – very few learners were able to use active listening techniques such as playing back what they heard, taking notes, using a summary to link to an open question etc.

Curiosity & Receptivity – Learners asked very few questions, and when they did, they were often closed questions which stifled progress.    This played into a broad need to focus more on the OTHER person – for growth, learners need to be able to suspend their own agenda and be more agile based on what they learn in the first minute to lead the interaction forward productively. 

For less than 2 hours virtual learning invested per learner, the learner gets a personalised tailored feedback report on what they did well and where they can improve, the development team of these high potential employees now has a treasure trove of aggregated data on priorities for their coaching & mentoring efforts and the leadership team gets to see how their culture shows up in real life.  This ain’t your grandma’s virtual learning!  Sign up for a demo today.