7 Soft Skills Essential When Leading Through Change
Soft skills are by definition intangible. They typically range from leadership to process-oriented, collaborative, listening, teamwork, creativity, communication, problem-solving, curiosity, resilience, negotiation, flexibility, work ethic, proactiveness, analytical thinking, crisis management, building relationships, self-management, interpersonal traits, etc. Basically, they include all abilities that are often not formally teachable and measurable. Soft skills are becoming increasingly important when it comes to implementing change as they link to how people communicate, motivate, engage, lead others. Nowadays they often combine under the banner of “emotional intelligence”— the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and those of the surrounding people.
Implementing change presumes an understanding of context, pain points, operational goals, change vision, enabling technologies and processes, as well as the ability of an organization to adapt. Tailoring a solution to its context is often the most important element; understanding (or the lack of) context can make (or break) expected business benefits, when compared to what was promised in the initial business case. Soft skills help make a difference when implementing change as it is all about people communicating and persuading others.
In this post, I highlight 7 essential soft skills required when implementing business change, such as the change associated with PLM or ERP business solutions.
People are the driving force behind operations and business change, from managing communication to providing or receiving education, defining reachable visions, converting objectives into actions, convincing other to embrace change and promote trade-offs when implementing enterprise solutions.
Soft sills and associated behaviors contribute to leading through adversity, managing complexity, dealing with resistance, adapting to new findings and course-correcting when required. Above all, 7 soft skills are essential when developing or acquiring new talents in the context of business change:
1. Flexibility and resilience
Perhaps the most common trait of all in these troubled time with the pandemic: the ability to adapt, demonstrate flexibility when it comes to assess situations, proactively respond to both internal and external forces, and use resilience to stay focused and committed to the change.
2. Problem-solving and big picture thinking
Finding solutions imply understanding pains points, deriving the relevant problem statement, using analytical thinking to perform root cause analysis, discovering resolution options and assessing the more suitable route forward, quickly and effectively.
3. Process-oriented and the ability to learn (and self-learn)
Most solutions are derived from a process of breaking down problems into manageable chunks, mining data and processes to derive the required insights, analyzing and researching possible resolutions and workarounds. Often, solutions require process change or re-engineering, looking at maximizing value versus cost.
4. Negotiation (including commercial)
It is critical to understand the business, the relevant delivery and commercial models, how an organization innovates and creates value for its customers with the contribution of its supply chain. Negotiating is part of the business change as it involves many stakeholders with multiple, sometimes contradicting expectations. This includes the ability to positively influence others in making the relevant choices, both at strategic and tactical levels (e.g. adopting out-of-the-box processes versus customizing a given capability).
5. Crisis management
Managing change includes dealing with many challenges, internally and possibly externally with suppliers and sometimes even customers. Crisis management is an essential skill when it comes to mitigating risk and dealing with underperforming parties.
6. Strategic communication
Consistent and authentic communication is critical to align stakeholders at all levels; change requires more than a robust communication, it typically leans on pragmatic, yet inclusive, leadership to explain and demonstrate the strategic nature of the change.
7. Ability to inspire others and show empathy
Delivering change requires business engagement; in turn, engaging the business requires trust, motivation and empathy to inspire others to contribute, adapt and own the new solution. It is part of the process of understanding others, positively influencing each situation leveraging their contribution.