First off what are “Soft Skills” where change agents are concerned?
These are skills that you use to interact with people in order to accomplish tasks or work in a project. At least that is what I take away from all of the references everywhere. I will list the core group of skills here:
Written and verbal communication
Presentation for example use of visual aids and meeting management
Transition in a small group from participant to leadership and back again
Working one on one
Understanding and executing instructions from sponsors and leadership
All of these skills will get their own treatment over time in this blog and in the podcast as I get to them. The main thing right now is to understand that this is the generally accepted list from a consolidation of resources and my own experience while working through projects. Leadership and the associated skills are not limited to the management or supervisors or people who have authority over another person. I have seen great leadership from a subordinate with no authority. An excellent example is for you parents out there where your child manipulates you into purchasing a toy. Maybe not the toy or treat the child wants, however when you walk into a store with the intention of only getting what you need and the child changes it. Some would call it manipulation however you tend to have to do it over and over. This tells me you start your leadership training at 2 years old.
Upon realizing you have to be a leader in managing change that causes anxiety through an entire company, you start to read everything on leadership and manipulation you can get your hands on. Some of the common authors are Franklin Covey, Jack Welch, Sun Tzu, and Bruce Lee, and many others.
The first thing you learn is to assess the company you are going to conduct change in. The main thing to ensure is that the leadership is on board and willing to start change. I mean they need to be on board with painful change. If they are already having trouble in their processes and have not initiated real change and are looking to you to save them. You need to gage their commitment to change. All you need is to be in the middle of a major process overhaul and some major failure or process hiccup occurs. All of your efforts are shot as you are dragged off to play fireman.
So you study basic communications and leadership. You take the appropriate tools and apply them to what works with your situation and personality. However most important of all is to ensure you are in the correct environment for change. All of the leadership capabilities in the world and the change you know will work will not happen when the boss says “no we can not do that.” An extreme example can be found in history. In the following case though, it is good that the change was not executed, for all our sakes. However at the time it did make sense for General McArthur to hammer the Chinese with heaver weapons than where at hand. Truman said no. Would it have worked? I do not think so. We will never know. However it was an idea with its own merit and backed up with data. You would have to make the call.
Next week and on the first podcast I will start out with a discussion on Presentation Skills.