To thrive in this emergent economy, business leaders must double down on “soft skills”
Editor’s note this is a four part series, please find part 1 here: Listen Before You Ask
As a coach of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded corporate leaders, I am paying attention to trends in people’s attitudes to returning to the office, from leadership as well as employees. In the beginning of social distancing, a “can-do, we got this” attitude pulled leaders and employees together to improvise ways to continue working in the face of unprecedented turmoil. Almost two years later, that “lean-in and get-the-job-done-at-all-costs” mentality that caused us to come together has led to workplace burnout and emotional apathy that is causing workers to quit in huge numbers. Dubbed “The Great Resignation,” it has employers scrambling to find manpower, and is dumping additional work and stress on the remaining employees.
The entrepreneurs I work with are mostly in professional services, part of the “knowledge industry” where the service provided isn’t tied to a physical location. Their businesses were stable or growing during the pandemic because their employees were effective in completing their jobs remotely. As our society adjusts to living with COVID as a permanent reality, most of these employees prefer a schedule that allows them to go into the office 2 to 3 days a week, and work the remaining days at home.
My clients are looking for ways to help their top talent deliver at a consistently high level. But this hybrid model gives rise to a whole host of uncomfortable management challenges.
It gives rise to questions like:
- “Can an employee be required to have a dedicated space to work from home?”
- “How do we handle children and pet interruptions during virtual meetings?”
- “What’s the acceptable amount of time for an employee to respond to a question from a colleague?”
Companies are working hard to establish new expectations for a hybrid work environment because what hasn’t changed is that success, whether in business or in life, requires the help of many people. No one person has a monopoly on the good ideas, and no one succeeds alone. Ultimately, success depends on enrolling other people in the mission, and communicating effectively among the team.
A stable business requires all the skills that were important before the so-called “Great Pause,”(as the pandemic is referred to in some circles). To thrive in this emergent economy, business leaders must double down on “soft skills” to compete in an economy that was unimaginable two short years ago. Remote work has changed the way we communicate with each other by removing the unspoken cues humans react to while sharing a physical location, ie eye contact and body language. Effective leaders need to enhance their ability to communication in a hybrid environment, and model this new behavior for their employees.
In my work with entrepreneurs, I’ve identified 4 fundamental skills that allow communication at a higher level, and enroll employees in contributing at a consistently high level. The next four articles will examine these skills. One of them you may not have considered before, and I’ll save that for the last article. The other three skills you’ve likely encountered, and are already pretty adept at using. However, I will give you some new perspective to deepen those skills increase their usefulness in this evolving work space. I mean for you to apply them to your business, but you will see that in doing so, they will also affect the quality of your life.
Part 1: Listen Before You Ask