The largest problem facing businesses isn’t competition, globalization, or access to capital. It is something else, something from within, something that today’s business leaders are not getting in their executive leadership development. It is embedded in the fabric of organizations as their most important asset, Human Capital.
Human capital, the people that make organizations work, is one of the largest single issues being faced in today’s business environment. Why is this so? With all of the tech savvy individuals entering the workforce, both highly intelligent and technically proficient, why would THEY be identified as the “root of quality problems” within an organization?
Basically it has more to do with what people don’t have versus what they have in the way of knowledge, skills and competencies. Technically they are in high demand, and meet the needs of the job). Culturally they are lacking some very important soft skills, and need executive leadership development to fill those gaps.
There have been a lot in the way of soft skills which have changed or been lost with Generations Y (1978 – 1989) and Z (1990 –1999).
Where this was a very important component of corporate life for the Boomers and some X’s (1965 – 1977), soft skills have started taking a backseat to modern values.
However, these traditional soft skills of loyalty, get in early, stay late, get the job done, and “fit in” with the organization are still tremendously useful for executive leaders today. And there’s the rub: executive leaders lack these skills that are absolutely essential for the long term success of any business. They desperately need quality executive leadership development to close this gap.
So what are these missing skills? In a nutshell they can be boiled down to the following:
- An traditionally professional attitude
- Critical thinking and problem solving
Business professionals exhibit extremes in personal habits and conduct. They are continually glued to handheld devices as a means of connectivity to the outside world and each other. Many times they choose to avoid conversations in exchange for short texts, abbreviated emails, or other forms of social media or electronic communication under the banner of efficiency. And while these behaviors are part of modern life, there needs to be a balance and executive leadership development should reflect it.
How does this contribute to quality problems? In many cases this leads to incomplete communication or understanding of internal customer needs. Many times we “assume” or take “literally” what someone is saying as their requirement. A smooth interaction of cross-functional processes takes understanding and agreement that may require secondary and tertiary discussions that best happen “point to point” (in face-to-face conversation). Lacking this interaction can lead to a misunderstanding of what the specific deliverables are; for example, in a multi-step process, a product or service someone requires from the previous step in the process to conduct their step in the process error free or without rework.
Overall, there needs to be a breakthrough in thinking at the upper management level that this is an investment in the future.
- Establish a soft skills development strategy as a core component of your executive leadership development for current positions.
- Review critical positions and analyze what are the soft skills needs for those positions.
- Understand that they are applicable for all levels of the organization and not just the worker bees.
- Mandate that management demonstrate these skills so people see they are important.
- Lead by example!
- Build soft skills into the hiring criteria; don’t just focus on technical skills.
Management, once they have achieved a breakthrough in thinking (you need to address this gap), then need to define those skills and adapt them into day-to-day routines to demonstrate a breakthrough in performance and culture. That performance is demonstrating on a day to day basis the fundamentals of Professionalism, Creative thinking and Traditionalism.
For assistance with building soft skills into your executive leadership development, view Juran’s comprehensive offerings at https://www.juran.com/learning.
Juran, J. M., and De Feo Joseph A. Juran’s quality handbook: the complete guide to performance excellence. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2017. Print.
Tulgan, Bruce. Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s You. N.p.: John Wiley & Sons, 2015. Print.
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