You think you know that the team leader you just hired will be a great asset to the company. The candidate writes well, knows every MS Office application inside and out, arrives at every appointment five minutes early, and has impressive educational credentials. However, did you stop to consider the individual’s soft skills? In the contemporary credit union environment, they are as important as ever.
Understanding Soft Skills
Unlike typing, which is a physical skill, dealing with other people successfully is a soft skill. How does the individual treat those they report to? How do they treat those who report to them? In short, soft skills are invaluable for inspiring, leading, and motivating a group of people.
Which Interpersonal Skills are Essential for an Outstanding Leader?
Everyone knows that one manager who barks orders and rules by fear. Members of this team are afraid to fail because they do not want to provoke the manager to anger. This manager may use sarcasm and rudeness to deal with stress and get others to comply. This manager is probably also why the department has a revolving door and cannot hold on to qualified workers.
Therefore, it makes sense that some soft skills are necessary for good leadership.
- Coaching. Boosting a team’s productivity is possible when the leader willingly takes on the role of coach. Rather than being the faultfinder and corrector, this individual sees mistakes as learning opportunities. This manager knows the team members and understands how to leverage their strengths for a joint effort. They also work with the individual on improving weaknesses in performance.
- Engagement. The adept manager speaks to the team on its level. This is an approachable individual who welcomes input, suggestions, questions, and even criticism. While making it clear that there is a time and a place for everything, this leader puts the team’s individual members first. Engaging them in dialogue and brainstorming sessions is an excellent way of showing that personal opinions are valued.
- Motivation. There is more to leading a team than focusing on assignments and deadlines. In fact, there are typically several key performance indicators that show if a department is on track to meet a future deadline. Working toward meeting these indicators is a productive way of eventually reaching the deadline on time or early. Motivating the team members to stay on task could be as simple as offering incentives, gamifying the process or celebrating minor milestones.
- Conflict resolution. People disagree all the time. There will be times when members of the team experience conflict. There will even be situations where the conflict is between a team member and the team leader. Active conflict resolution requires the leader to take the steps necessary for regaining common ground. Being in control of their temper, appreciating the other person’s point of view, being curious about their reasoning, and willing to see situations from a different angle are instrumental. It helps if the manager has additional soft skills such as a positive outlook, creative thinking, and problem-solving capabilities. Using a behavioral assessment also helps further develop leaders towards success. For example, you might have an employee with the natural assertiveness to approach conflict head on, but needs a little help toning down that assertiveness in certain situations. On the opposite side of the equation, you could have a low-key leader who avoids conflict and needs some coaching and support for addressing those situations directly.
Can You Teach a New Hire the Necessary Soft Skills to Succeed?
Anyone who is willing and commits time and effort to the task will improve on their typing speed. This hard skill can be honed. However, it is far more challenging to teach someone how to adapt to changes in a business environment and communicate a positive work ethic so that others on the team will follow this example. Some soft skills are part of a candidate’s personality.
Some people automatically come with a fantastic set of interpersonal skills that allows them to succeed in virtually any team setting. No matter what the challenges are, this candidate gets to work and thinks creatively about motivating others while modeling things like time management and a great attitude.
That said, there are also the candidates who have a fair share of these attributes but haven’t sharpened those skills yet. While this team leader may not do very well with problem-solving yet, they are fantastic when managing time, communicating clearly, and motivating team members. This candidate is willing to learn from their mistakes and invests time and effort in professional and personal growth opportunities.
You Cannot Fast-Track Soft Skills Development
If you have hired a candidate in the hopes of promoting them to team leader, it may take a little longer than you planned to develop them for the position. Someone who does not yet know how to empower others needs to learn how to do so, understand the process, and seek out motivational techniques to boost morale and productivity.
Occasionally, the problem arises when a candidate does not believe that they have the soft skills you are looking for. For example, a management candidate coming from a hospitality environment. There, they learned time management and problem-solving skills. However, they may not see how these soft skills translate into a credit union. You may need to help the candidate understand what they have and how it translates to your organization.
Of course, the reverse can also happen. You may have a candidate who believes they have excellent conflict resolution or motivational skills when the opposite is the case. This may be someone who failed to receive or take input from prior employment situations.
How to Hire the Candidate with the Soft Skills Your Business Needs (or Develop the Worker You Have)
Knowledge is power. You can test for typing speeds. But did you know that you could also assess personality type to evaluate, coach and develop soft skills? Empower your company to move toward the next phase of growth by putting candidates through a behavioral assessment, like the Omnia Assessment, that helps you understand their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Then, when the candidate is a good match for what you need, hire them.
Moreover, empower those new hires and your current employees to leverage their strengths and work on challenge areas. Understanding the traits, preferences and motivational needs of your employees gives you the data to coach individuals with the greatest potential to move up the company’s ranks and become dedicated leaders.