Why Soft Skills Matter

Are you an effective coach for your people?

Thanks to the continued prominence of technology, data and the Internet in our lives, the workplace has transformed considerably over the last decade and now more so in recent times. And the ways companies hire, train and develop their employees for leadership positions has changed significantly as a result. I have embraced the technology and am thankful for all the advancements we have made along the way.

But beyond technology, perhaps at times we have lost sight to what is truly important to create an innovative, successful and engaging workplace culture. Culture just doesn’t live inside the four walls of your physical office space. Culture is fostered through every interaction, whether it be email, virtual meetings or face-to-face discussions.

We Need More than STEM Skills to Create High Performance

It’s easy to understand why organizations and educational institutions have placed so much stock in the development of STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). All of us rely on technology in our work and personal lives. People who understand STEM subjects are highly valued for their knowledge and expertise, given how important technology and data has become. And most successful organizations innovate and succeed by leveraging the skills and talents of their employees. So, it stands to reason that by focusing on building a workforce and culture that values STEM skills, organizations are gaining a powerful edge. I beg to ask the question, is that enough to build a workplace culture that oozes high performance beyond possessing the technical knowledge required to thrive in today’s economy? 

Google is, without a doubt, one of the most successful companies on the planet, and it has focused most of its hiring on individuals who are the best of the best in terms of their STEM credentials. The company went “all in” on STEM, structuring its culture and workforce based on the belief that hard skills are what really matter. But a few years ago, Google examined the effectiveness of their hiring practices, and the results were surprising. 

In this article from The Washington Post, Cathy N. Davidson, who authored the new book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux, describes what happened when Google took an honest look at what they value in the hiring process. 

What Google found in their study was that STEM expertise was the least important characteristic of its top employees. It turns out that what Google hypothesized about an effective workforce was the opposite of true. So, what did Google determine to be the most important characteristics? Soft skills like coaching, communication, empathy and listening were the traits that corresponded to the highest levels of competency, innovation and overall effectiveness. 

Because Google is a company that believes in data, it has since updated its hiring practices to also focus on people who excel in areas that might not seem obvious for a technology company. These days, Google is reaching out to people who not only have STEM backgrounds, but who are also well rounded, curious and emotionally intelligent. Other companies such as Chevron and IBM have followed suit. 

Yes, STEM skills are important. But what’s more important is building coaching culture where open two-way communication will foster high performance and innovation.

What Is a Coaching Culture?

I believe that high-performing organizations are made up of people who understand more than just the details of their specific jobs, organization and industry. They are made up of people who understand that coaching and communication are more than just buzzwords or high-minded concepts to aspire to. High-performing organizations are made up of people who build, nurture and sustain a coaching culture

To me, a coaching culture is one that puts people first. And it thrives in organizations where the power of communication is highly valued. In fact, coaching is just a conversation, and for many organizations, that conversation only flows in one direction — from the top down. But in organizations with strong coaching cultures, an ongoing dialogue occurs, and it flows in all directions. It includes big ideas like the organization’s mission, but it also includes the brief, one-on-one interactions that happen by the coffee machine or conversations in passing through the hallways of your company. 

In a coaching culture, people see each other holistically, as people who matter and have purpose and value. A coaching culture creates an environment where people feel comfortable and capable of performing their best. It engenders an environment where people are never afraid to speak up if they have a great idea or need to provide honest, constructive feedback. A coaching culture allows people to genuinely feel like they are just as much a part of the ongoing organizational conversation as theCEO at the top.

Coaching Starts with Conscious Leadership

Creating a coaching culture does not happen spontaneously. It takes effort, focus and a genuine passion for supporting and developing others to perform at their best, even if that means giving up your top talent to another area in the business. It starts with you as leaders for your organization because you set the tone with your thinking and behavior.  

I continuously repeat myself with purpose when I say that self-awareness is the foundation that allows you as a leader to show up in your best way possible for yourself and your people. You need to model the appropriate behaviors and best practices first, especially if you expect your people to follow suit.  

Are You Ready to Play the Role of Coach for Your People?

What are your thoughts on creating a coaching culture? Do you have the right skills to effectively coach your people to success? It’s not always easy, and requires time and practice, but it might be the most impactful investment you make to elevate your company’s performance and success.

The LeadersEdgeGrounded Leader webinar series continues this month through to September of this year where we will visit a different Grounded Leader pillar every month. Today, we will be exploring how to Inspire with Your Message. On May 26th we will focus on how to create a culture of Total Accountability. If you are eager to learn more, then you don’t want to miss this webinar.

If you are interested in learning more, visit this page to find out how you can reserve your spot.

I’m here and available to support your leadership success so give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca.

I am also offering complimentary coaching sessions to help leaders through this challenging time. Please book your session here.

Stay well, safe and be kind!

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