Are your leaders having the difficult conversations?

Are you accounting for the hard damage that poor soft skills among your leaders can do? Are your leaders talking about how their jobs have changed? Do they speak candidly about what they must do differently? Do they advise each other about adjusting to lead younger generations or distanced team members?

Are your leaders having the difficult conversations?
Business

Are your leaders having the difficult conversations?

Everyone needs to talk about change and how they must adapt their skills

published : 8 Aug 2022 at 06:28

writer: Arinya Talerngsri

Are you accounting for the hard damage that poor soft skills among your leaders can do? Are your leaders talking about how their jobs have changed? Do they speak candidly about what they must do differently? Do they advise each other about adjusting to lead younger generations or distanced team members?

They should be, and by now they must have realised that new skills and approaches are needed. If not, it could be a bad sign for your organisation.

Why? Because of change. The scale and urgency of change have increased noticeably, and this is also true for leadership skills and approaches. Your leaders may not realise yet how profoundly their roles are changing. Recent research by Deloitte indicates that almost two-thirds of all occupations in the future will be based on soft skills.

Recent research by Boston Consulting Group found that 37% of the skills requested for the average job have changed since 2016, and 22% were entirely new requirements. This means leadership relearning and upskilling must occur, especially of soft skills and using them to lead Gen Z. This applies across every department in your organisation. Even tech and digital leaders need soft skills to make their work impactful.

If your organisation is anything like mine, you’ll have seen a lot of new and younger faces. And your leaders must have a better plan than business as usual. Your leaders cannot assume these young people will fall in line with “how we do things here”.

Gen Z will account for a quarter of the workforce by 2025. Their values are noticeably different, and some organisations are already seeing young talents walk out the door because of mismatches in purpose. If your leaders are not seeking to adjust, then you are already on your way to losing the war for talent.

Furthermore, Gen Z has had a traumatic start to their working lives and faced challenges no one has ever seen before. In some ways, their situation means they never developed some of the skills required. They are ready to complete basic workplace tasks but less ready for other tasks such as negotiation, networking, public speaking, and resilience in tough times. Some of them have never learned to resolve conflicts, or even take direction.

All of these fall under the responsibility of leaders at all levels. Many of these young workers that the future of your company depends on do not need a traditional boss.

Instead, they need leaders who will take the time to understand them individually, provide the requisite attention and empathy, and contribute to their development. They need servant leaders who will develop their capabilities patiently, and your existing leaders should be having conversations around these pain points at the very least. Ideally, they should be looking for help to adjust quickly. What should this look like in your leaders at all levels?

  • Willingness/eagerness to learn new leadership approaches and skills.
  • Requests to keep their skills up to date.
  • Taking advantage of company training.
  • Asking senior leaders for permission and approaches to empower them and create a true culture of learning.
  • Incorporating soft skills-led approaches into their leadership style.

How can you sell the urgent need to develop soft skills to your leaders? Answer the age-old question: What is in it for me?

Most leaders and managers will get it at an intellectual level, but any upskilling/ reskilling is painful because the leaders need to drop their perception of infallibility. They must believe that what got them here won’t get them there, as the US leadership Guru Marshall Goldsmith said.

Senior leaders need to show how their leadership approaches tie to the metrics that matter (to them and the organisation). These include but are not limited to improved employee engagement, increased productivity and business agility.

The good news is that your seasoned leaders understand that expertise and capability develop from experience. You will need to provide them with development experiences and specific activities to practice and stretch themselves and share what they have learned. Also, don’t forget that your leaders are human too, and have learning preferences. Give them scope to find their own best way forward.

In my organisation, I asked my leaders to consider how they were part of the problem for younger staff and to share their findings. I asked them to reconsider how they spent their time and communicated with their teams (including Gen Y) using approaches such as asynchronous work and communication rather than endless meetings.

I asked them to get reverse-mentored. It wasn’t easy but by asking them to take the time to understand their staff as individuals and to lead, not push, the rewards soon became clear. I’m not claiming that all this was my idea or instigation, but senior leaders need to start creating these conversations to develop the leadership that tomorrow’s talent needs today.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at https://forms.gle/wf8upGdmwprxC6Ey9



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