This article comes from Entrepreneur.
Here’s what I’ve learned since then: Helping your team manage soft skills is just as important, if not more so, to maintaining an engaging and productive work environment.
Think of all the demanding, complex tasks your team performs on a daily basis, from writing reports and answering emails to dealing with demanding customers. There’s an element of stress to all of these activities, whether external or internal. No matter how much an employee loves their job, there are moments where all of this builds into overwhelm. While we’ve all experienced an overload of stress at some point, aside from the unpleasantness, it also negatively impacts our performance abilities. As Rick Fernandez writes for Harvard Business Review: “Because work is getting more demanding and complex, and because many of us now work in 24/7 environments, anxiety and burnout are not uncommon. In our high-pressure workplaces, staying productive and engaged can be challenging.”
Enter soft skills, or the ability to build resilience and interact effectively with others. Flexibility, problem-solving and being a good communicator are all essential to managing these feelings of tension.
John Maxwell, American author and speaker, argues that to add value to others, one must first value others. As a leader, finding ways of helping people pause and recharge throughout their workday should take priority, but how can you build in these systems? In simple terms, by focusing on creating mini-buffers throughout the day and being more flexible and mindful of employees’s time.
When employees splinter their focus between tasks, burnout comes on faster. Instead, encourage team members to focus on deep work, or a “flow” state, which is when we’re intensely focused on an activity and feel a profound sense of satisfaction.
As I’ve written before, when we’re absorbed in a single task, we don’t have enough leftover attention to dwell on inane mental chatter or worry about problems beyond our control. Rather than expect team members to juggle 10 different tasks, ask them to devote 90-minute time blocks for uninterrupted work.
It’s important to be intentional and explicit about your expectations. As digital distraction piles up around work, communicate to your employees that you don’t require them to always “be on.” For example, I tell my team to take Slack off their phone and not answer work emails on their breaks or on weekends. This allows them to fully disconnect and come back more rested and recharged. Promoting physical and mental well-being helps employees feel more cooperative, creative and capable of displaying leadership skills when necessary.
Nothing enhances or impacts productivity and performance like having happy employees. That’s why emotional engagement should take center stage; meaning, being open and genuinely interested in their personal development. Encouraging the right support for your team means asking them about their interests outside of work. Be deliberate in welcoming feedback and in spending time developing and recognizing their skills and talents.
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