These Soft Skills Can Go a Long Way

 -  4/25/13

While they may not appear in a leader’s official job description, some soft skills can help connect them with employees at a deeper level.

Consider this scenario: Joe Smith is a potential successor for the CEO position at a global financial services company. He excels at boosting sales for his company in the Asia-Pacific region, and he is good at anticipating emerging trends and translating them into actionable business strategies. He is driven by personal achievement and region performance. However, Smith is not very charismatic or personable, and he often fails to connect with and inspire others. As a result, his successes to date have been short-term, and without improving his communication skills, his promotion to CEO isn’t realistic.

According to a recent study by global engagement research firm Leadership IQ, about 90 percent of new hires fail because of attitude, not because they lack a certain skill. As a result, it’s critical that employers take into account the soft skills of prospective employees and how these can help differentiate between pre-hires with similar backgrounds and technical abilities.

A few of the soft skills most repeatedly linked to executive success are:

Listening and collaborating. Executives who can give their undivided attention to others and are fully present in their communications often maintain better working relationships with people both in and outside of their organization. Rather than jump to assumptions during conversations, good listeners focus on understanding someone’s point of view rather than crafting their own response and asking questions that drive increased understanding and clarity. In addition, by consistently engaging with their peers, these individuals understand the importance of using team collaboration to solve complex business problems or come up with new ideas. Without these skills among leaders, companies are at risk for low employee engagement levels or missing out on new ideas and perspectives that could help grow the business.

As more businesses become global, there is greater demand for talented leaders who can develop, maintain and grow relationships with colleagues and customers across multiple borders and cultures. These qualities are also important for companies that use the complex matrix structure, in which leaders must connect with people across different teams and functions.

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