More than ever, increasing importance is placed on an employee's soft skills. Soft skills or personal attributes enable a supervisor to interact well with other employees and customers. Technical skills are taking a back seat to soft skills in today's workforce.
5 important soft skills supervisors should focus on:
- Critical Thinking
- Social Intelligence
Why are Soft Skills Important?
For a supervisor today, technical skills alone are not enough to lead people effectively. Supervisors must possess strong communication and organizational skills. They need to be team players and create a high level of engagement with all employees.
Soft skills are much more challenging to develop and master than hard skills because soft skills are typically innate, whereas hard skills or technical skills are learned. Soft skills require little knowledge or expertise with a specific technical skill but are linked more to someone's character. Supervisors need to be committed to consciously practicing and developing their soft skills. The modern workforce today requires soft skills, and the future workforce will rely heavily on them as well. Listening and collaborating with others will be essential for maintaining a healthy work environment. As our workforce becomes increasingly competitive, customers and clients expect—and even demand—that soft skills be utilized in all communications/interchanges.
In today's workforce, competition is everywhere, and our clients will want to work with organizations with top-notch customer service and technical skills. So, what soft skills are most important for supervisors to master? We're taking a closer look at five soft skills that are essential to a healthy and productive work environment:
Communication is the exchange of thoughts, information, ideas, and messages between individuals or groups; however, it's technically only considered communication if those same thoughts and information are understood.
Workplace communication is any variation of communicating about the job. This may happen through face-to-face interactions, written instructions/guidelines, or video conferencing. Communication can also occur in real-time and through asynchronous communication (e.g., e-mail, recorded videos). When information is not relayed in real-time, a delayed response is expected, which can be a problem if the issue is time-sensitive. Supervisors must understand how best to communicate with their team members to avoid confusion, miscommunication, and unnecessary delays.
Remember that communication is more than written or spoken words; it may also be transmitted through behaviors, listening, and feedback. As a supervisor, if you want to create a high-performing and well-functioning team, effective communication is "KEY." When you and your team communicate more effectively, you will see improved performance and morale. As Peter Drucker said, "The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said." Devote time to understand what will work best for you and your team and implement those strategies.
Effectively planning and implementing projects and tasks for yourself and others is a critical soft skill that supervisors and managers should have in their tool kit. Supervisors who are organized can reduce stress while increasing productivity at the same time. Organization is more than a checklist. Methods of organization will be different for everyone. Some of us like to use an online calendar; others prefer the traditional way of staying organized by putting pen to paper and writing their to-do lists. Organization, as a skill or trait, is more than just using a calendar; it's ensuring everything has a place. Do you have a filing system that allows you to locate things quickly? Again, this can accomplished with a filing cabinet for hard copies or organized file folders for electronic documents.
Another great piece of advice for supervisors when planning and organizing is to spend a few moments at the end of each day to plan the following day's activities. This will allow each day to start with a plan of action. Certainly, things can change and often will, but having a plan will enable you to stay on task and keep track of tasks that didn't get completed.
Having solid "team player" skills and collaborating with others is crucial in the workplace. The larger the company you work for, the greater the chance you are involved in multiple teams and committees. As a supervisor and leader within your organization, you need to be an asset to all those teams and help create an open environment where all feel welcome and appreciated. Research shows that collaborative problem-solving will lead to better outcomes. When healthy teams exist, creativity and innovation will likely improve as well. Having the support of a team allows people to be open and honest. Working collectively as a team will not only support personal growth but also decrease stress and increase job satisfaction.
4. Critical Thinking
Today's Supervisors must know and understand the importance of using problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Relying on personal and past experiences and utilizing available research and resources will help a supervisor resolve issues promptly. Today, supervisors are tasked with doing more with less, so critical thinking skills are vital. Critical thinking is one of the first skills to identify when considering high-potential employees for promotions.
5. Social Intelligence
More than any other characteristic or skill, social intelligence matters most to front and mid-line management. Social intelligence is about understanding your environment and positively influencing others. To have this positive impact, supervisors should consider several important steps:
- Build Rapport: Get to know your employees; allow employees to get to know you.
- Establish Credibility: Be trustworthy and believable.
- Demonstrate Integrity: Be honest and of strong moral character.
- Earn Respect: Follow your advice and guidelines so that employee admiration is based on what you do; actions mustn't contradict words.
Technical skills may seem more impressive on a CV, but soft skills are the key that can set you apart from the competition. Mastering soft skills takes constant effort and practice. You can, however, improve upon your current set of soft skills. With the growing importance of soft skills in today's work environment, it's essential that supervisors objectively assess their soft skills. Supervisors should ask themselves these three things:
- What are your strongest soft skills?
- What are your weakest soft skills?
- How can you improve your weakest soft skills?
Think about your answers and use the advice provided in this article to improve your soft skills. Doing so will help you become a better leader and inspire your team.