Distributed Leadership Teams Need Ongoing Soft Skills Training

Soft Skills Training

by Dr. Martina Carroll-Garrison

When individuals are promoted into a managerial role, there can be a paradox in how they manage people. Ask a new manager to talk about the best manager they ever had, and they will usually reel off encouraging experiences: they set me a challenge and left me to get on with it, they communicated well, they trusted me.

But then ask them how they need to manage their new team, and they will often explain they have to be directive: I need to keep an eye on their work, they need to be told how to do things, I need to manage every step of the way.

The irony of acting like the polar opposite of the manager who helped them flourish is rarely lost when it’s pointed out. But what few people realise is that, actually, it’s a lesson in the value of soft, or power, skills.

Soft skills are powerful

These skills have gone through a rebranding recently, but only because it was realised that they were never soft in the first place. 

Power skills, as they are now called, are challenging to master and, as those new managers find, even harder to consistently apply. They are skills that need constant practice and refinement, often because they go against the instinct to manage rather than lead.

One of the reasons power skills are coming to the fore again is because of the changes in the way we work. The pandemic accelerated the trends of remote working and distributed teams. Within just a few years, a manager may have gone from seeing their team in the same office five days a week, to managing people on other continents that they may never actually meet. 

The old style of directive management might, just about, work in an office environment, although it might not have resulted in a motivated workforce. Today, that approach not only won’t work, but will probably result in a manager having to deal with a near-constant staff turnover.

Despite this, although we hear more and more about distributed working, and even the technical side that makes it all possible, we hardly ever seem to hear about the power skills that are needed to make it a success. 

This might be down to our traditional ways of thinking about soft and hard skills. Soft skills were just who we were, some people were naturally good at communicating, or precise about timekeeping, but they were not skills that could be taught.

Hard skills, on the other hand, have been baked into our cultures. Most countries have an education system that does nothing but hard skills. Success is dependent on receiving facts, learning them, and then regurgitating them in tests. People can have strings of letters after their name but never have been taught a single power skill. 

As we move into new ways of working, where teams might be spread around the world, and even the person in the next building might be working different hours to match their lifestyle, the need for power skills has never been greater. And this is not just for those leading the teams.

Power skills, such as communication, dependability, and time management, will be essential for everyone from the top to the bottom of the organisation. Leaders will have to be able to trust their staff and lead them, across multiple locations, to reach business goals.

Every organisation hires the best people it can, but not every organisation gets the best from them. To do that means unleashing their power skills, and for most people that require training to help them recognise the value and impact of their actions. Teams that train and practise power skills consistently see higher levels of motivation, productivity, and teamwork. 

But the training and practice are the keys; without them, they are selling themselves short. And the people who work for them too.

About the Author

Dr. Martina Carroll-GarrisonAs a Georgetown University trained and ICF Certified Executive Leadership Coach, with a Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership, and a global professional portfolio, Dr. Martina Carroll-Garrison is uniquely skilled to help optimise your organisation, improve employee engagement and enhance both reputation and performance. Her website is https://www.drtinatalkswork.com/.


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