Leaders who use soft skills when managing change equip folks to handle the underlying currents of disruption.
Why don’t more organizations value leadership soft skills? I think it’s because they are so busy reacting to rapid change they aren’t taking time to assess their new environment from a 50,000-foot perspective.
That’s like saying you’d equip yourself the same way for a white water trip as you would a luxury river cruise.
They aren’t the same experience or environment. Each experience generates distinct activity.
For example, in a mature organization you’re perfecting your process so you use inward looking skills like analysis, scaling for efficiency, etc. You focus on questions like how do we fine tune, tweak, adjust for optimum results?
These questions are typical of a hard skill focus with a primary goal of “how do we do what we do better?”
Once disruption occurs, the environment should shift from way things were just like in the diagram.
Limits of Organizational Control in Disrupted Organizations
You can’t control outside forces.
Your sphere of influence is shrinking because the landscape is changing. You have to work with what is in front of you now…not what used to be. Leaders proficient in soft skills can engage people so they can co-create what’s next.
Hard skills don’t disappear when you are managing change. They should be used differently though. They become supporting skills when the organizational focus expands by looking outward. You ask different questions when looking outward: What’s emerging? What will it take to adapt? You assess the changing landscape. Metrics and data points must change based on these new insights.
Folks can’t absorb new perspectives without a foundation of trust.
Why Soft Skills Matter in Disrupted Organizations
People don’t respond well to uncertainty. It triggers fear and mistrust. Asking outward looking questions challenges the status quo which creates more uncertainty and mistrust.
Have you seen how people fill a vacuum even in calm conditions? They use the grapevine to fill information gaps with monsters and worse case scenarios.
In disruptive times without trust ALL the energy is focused on the vacuum instead of creative thinking.
Soft skills (which can be developed) are at the heart of trusting relationships. Trusting relationships are foundational to managing change successfully.