Did you catch the recent report with the jaw-dropping title, “95% of employees say managers are making everything worse. Can improving soft skills help?” We’re obsessed with helping managers and supervisors excel, so we couldn’t wait to read about the importance of “soft” skills like being compassionate, listening actively, and giving feedback.
3 hard leadership facts
Frankly, the article left us scratching our heads. At first, we totally agreed with the research about the challenges facing business leaders. Consider:
- FACT: 95% of employees say bad managers make workplace stressors worse. (Yikes!)
- FACT: The focus on “soft” leadership and management skills like empathy, adaptability, and giving feedback jumped 10 percentage points between 2019-2022.
- FACT: A manager’s ability to build trust and recognize their team is a powerful predictor of retention.
We work closely with ag-industry managers and supervisors, and all these findings rang true. We know that more than ever before, one of the best ways to retain employees is to ensure your leaders are open, communicative, and respectful. Workers want to feel safe, valued, and connected—and if they don’t, they’re willing to walk.
1 giant leadership myth
Now, here’s the bit that stopped us in our tracks:
“There is no how-to on building meaningful and open relationships with your employees;
it’s all a process of trial and error.”
Respectfully, we beg to differ!
Yes, supervisors have a lot on their plates, what with trying to meet business goals while also managing pandemic burnout (their teams’ and their own), dealing with market fluctuations, and making smart hiring decisions so new folks stick around. But we believe—actually, we know—there are proven ways to ensure your managers can rise to every challenge.
Best of all? With some guidance and practice, leaders of all backgrounds and experiences can learn and apply game-changing strategies right away. We see it happen all the time during our 8-week Ignite to Transform for Team Leaders (I2T4TL) course.
Turns out there’s a “how-to” on being a better manager after all.
An investment in people that works
When managers get professional training and apply their tools and skills, business changes for the better. Here’s a case in point. A supervisor in our course complained about employees arriving late, zoning out on their phones, and delivering sub-par work. This manager had no interest in giving feedback to his employees to inspire them to do better. “I pay them to do a job,” he said with a shrug. “And I expect them to do it.” We also learned that his company was struggling to attract and keep good workers.
Our take: If your current approach is working, kudos. But if the team or business isn’t reaching its goals, it’s time to try a new approach. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome?
Practice makes progress
In another example, a rather gruff manager told us his employees would scurry out of sight when they saw him coming. In this communication void, our friend assumed his team (this “younger generation”) was lazy, unmotivated, and definitely not interested in feedback on how to do better. We suggested he schedule regular one-on-ones and feedback sessions (using the helpful BIT framework for guidance). “It won’t work,” he predicted.
He did it anyway—and was delighted by the response. “Not only does my team like our conversations, they asked for even more feedback.” (Naturally, we reminded him that even giving negative feedback is 30% more effective than the silent treatment. And positive feedback is 40% more effective than negative. Time to start talking!)
Not “soft.” Essential.
With all this goodness in mind, we’re still scratching our heads about the article’s claim that there’s no “how-to” for managers in need of social/emotional training. Such skills training is powerful and effective—and maybe it’s time we stopped calling it “soft.”
I2T4TL is a deep dive into topics including the critical role of managers; building a solid foundation for success; giving feedback that inspires employees to do their best; and strategies for interviewing and hiring right every time. Find out more at an upcoming product demo: Wednesday, December 14th 10:00 CST (register here) or Tuesday, December 20th 1:00 CST (register here).