Even as many IT teams delivered results with little disruption in the last 18 months, the pandemic brought into focus the importance of soft skills in technology leadership. This is where businesses need to invest the most time in the remaining weeks of 2021 and beyond.
Technical expertise has always been a given in IT roles, but the ability to motivate staff, help build their skills, and look after their emotional wellbeing requires a different set of capabilities entirely. Successfully blending the two elements is the ultimate challenge of any tech leader.
Here are some key areas to focus on to ensure future success for your IT teams.
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1. Trust your employees
If you show your team members that you believe in their potential and give them the space to express their ideas and grow their responsibilities, they will flourish. Widespread remote working has shown that people can do their jobs well without being physically present, so it’s essential to maintain this trust between leaders and employees.
This means giving staff the chance to make mistakes in a safe environment, where an honest error receives constructive feedback rather than a dismissive rebuke. Negative feedback rarely leads to a positive outcome. Communicate opportunities for improvement with honesty and always relate feedback to the role that the individual holds within the team. Initiative and independent thought should always be appreciated, even if a team member doesn’t get things quite right the first time.
2. Show people they're not alone
Remote working has been successful for many in terms of productivity, but isolation has its challenges too. This is especially true for junior staff members, many of whom have started their careers without the benefit of in-person interaction with colleagues.
Whether your team members are still working remotely or back in the office, it’s crucial to let them know that they’re not alone. This means being available when they need professional or emotional guidance and using your experience with projects and tech stacks to help them through the tougher times. It’s all about balance – be there to provide support, but don’t micromanage their every move.
Maintain a high level of trust with your team members by establishing an effective communication strategy. Your team members should know how and when they can reach you if necessary.
It's all about balance – be there to support your team members, but don't micromanage their every move.
3. Plan in-person events
Everyone benefits from in-person interaction every now and then, especially as Zoom fatigue often makes concentration difficult in online meetings. Getting back to organizing social events is a great way for people to get to know each other better, share their experiences, and increase knowledge of their roles.
Structured workshops that focus on enhancing skills in various areas are also hugely valuable. These should focus not just on the bread-and-butter technical skills, but also on areas such as time management, project planning, and how to maintain your emotional wellbeing in the workplace. Face-to-face interactions can work wonders when it comes to developing these disciplines.
[ Improve your communication and other soft skills: How to build soft skills: 10 must-read books. ]
4. Promote people as soon as they're ready
Don’t be afraid to promote your most promising team members when they do great work. Giving credit where credit is due is vital to increase staff loyalty and motivate people to push themselves to new heights.
This is particularly true when a team member demonstrates the all-important blend of technical and soft skills. After 18 months of isolation and uncertainty, showing your team that you appreciate their work and believe in them can go a long way towards making your organization happier and more productive.
Soft skills make all the difference
While the pandemic has been difficult for businesses and employees, it has also presented opportunities to expand skill sets and develop new capabilities that may not have been considered integral in the pre-pandemic world. Effectively engaging with your team in new ways requires soft skills.
In any career, it is important to constantly evaluate performance and look for areas for improvement, and soft skills should be part of this. As an IT leader, aim to add these competencies to your repertoire as often as you would new technical skills.
In the new world of work, leaders who embrace the tips listed above will see enhanced levels of productivity and fulfillment from their teams. Remember: Success is fueled by happy, valued, and motivated team members.
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