The world is changing at an ever faster rate but managing organisational change is nothing new. What is different is the speed at which leaders need to change their thinking to cope with new technologies and a changing environment. In many ways, these changes have disempowered leaders by making them much more dependent upon their senior managers and advisors. Many people now hold the key data inside Council.
What differentiates successful leaders from not-so-successful leaders is their ability to understand, coordinate, influence and motivate their staff. These social competence skills or the soft skills of leadership are now seen as essential for leaders at all levels within Council.
In assessing and developing skills and competencies within Council leaders, we often break these into three groups: People skills, Task skills and Leadership skills.
People Skills create the atmosphere or culture in which the team works; promoting harmony and trust:
Communication: ‘pacing staff, varying communication styles, engaging and questioning to enhance rapport
Active Listening: paying attention/demonstrating interest, open questions, building on what they say, summarising
Team Relationships: building and maintaining respect, understanding and trust within team members, interpersonal
Problem-solving & Counseling: available, responsive, empathetic, questioning to understand, facilitating, collaborating, coaching
Participating decision making: engaging staff, gaining opinions and ideas, level of authority clear, empowered, joint ‘ownership’
Interface management: managing the links between internal team members as well as between internal and external stakeholders
Task Skills create a solid core or foundation on which the work of the team relies; they promote confidence and stability.
Work Allocation: assigning tasks to team members based upon competence and preferences, balancing team strengths
Team Development: planning ways of developing skills in areas that are not preferences, developing strengths/managing limitations
Delegation: process of learning via experience and support at work to develop competencies, leads to confidence and trust
Clear Objectives: outputs/outcomes focused, mutual agreement even when changing frequently, take ownership and pride in work, mileposts for measurement
Quality Standards: strive for quality in all efforts, standards and procedures to support everyone’s quality, meet the expectations of the internal/external ‘customer’
Leadership Skills allow for articulation of a compelling vision of the team’s future; to ensure staffs give their best, staff need a clear picture of what lies ahead and then be regularly persuaded that the vision is worth pursuing.
Motivate: inspiring staff towards the vision with clear goals, taking a stand on controversial issues, advocating for the team to senior management, understanding individual motivation
Strategic: thinking/investing time discovering root causes and considering interaction of all elements in complex issues, thinking ahead, logical analysis, risk assessment/mitigation.
Leaders at all levels of Council need to have these social competence skills assessed and developed to improve their performance and their team’s. People skills establishes an atmosphere of harmony/trust, Task skills prepares the ground for efficient outputs, and Leadership skills provide inspiration and direction.
Together all three comprise the interpersonal skills needed for leadership excellence and outstanding team performance.