Our Blog

Footer Background_v2 copy

Soft Skills are the Key to Making Hard Decisions

by The Leadership Development Group

To navigate tough workplace challenges and hard decisions, we know that soft skills, aka Emotional Intelligence (EI), often make the difference between success and failure. Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with work and with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person's knowledge and occupational skills. Soft skills have more to do with who people are, rather than what they know. In fact, recent research concluded that 85% of job success stems from soft skills rather than skills and knowledge needed for the job.

"Often a request for improved soft skills can sound like 'we need you to show more empathy toward others’. While that might sound simple, in reality, it's quite hard. It requires the individual to recognize what empathy looks like when it's applied, understand the difference between their current behavior patterns and ones consistent with empathy, and create the time and conditions necessary to practice and develop a new way of behaving.”

 — Tracy Duberman, PhD, President, and CEO of TLD Group

The development of soft skills is rarely covered in executive training or education. Instead, they are skills learned on the job, often from experience or from mentors, executive coaches, or other professionals. These skills are especially crucial for healthcare professionals, as the entire industry revolves around serving and helping patients, making difficult decisions, and adapting to unforeseen situations (like a merger or global pandemic). Soft skills can prepare leaders for effectively gaining buy-in on organizational decisions.

Types of Soft Skills

There are many behaviors that comprise the general category of soft skills. These include the following:  

1. Adaptability

Adaptability refers to the ability to remain flexible as circumstances and details change. This is especially important in healthcare settings, where new medicines, technologies, and research ensure a constant state of change. Remaining adaptable could mean having a backup plan for new policies, staying calm under pressure, willingness to learn new technology, and more. 

2. Communication

Communication includes all verbal and non-verbal ways individuals exchange information. Nearly 93% of all communication is nonverbal — meaning posture, eye contact, hand gestures, and more can affect how a message is received. The ability to communicate with empathy and emotional intelligence can heavily impact how well proposals are received, physician bedside manner, and more. 

3. Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is defined by one’s ability to think about something in a new way. Not to be mistaken for adaptability, creative thinking is a key skill used in problem-solving. Being able to consider new perspectives and potential solutions is necessary for finding the right solution to a problem. 

4. Dependability

Dependability matters on every level in the workplace. From reliably showing up on time and putting out consistent results to being a trustworthy supervisor, dependability is a necessity in the healthcare sector. The ability to remain timely, dedicated, organized, and responsive to matters, whether you’re an ER nurse or CEO focusing on administration. 

5. Work Ethic 

Work ethic refers to the attitude of determination one has towards their job. Often, this relates to how important one feels their job is. In the healthcare sector, where work directly impacts patient health, maintaining a strong work ethic and dedication to patient care is imperative. 

6. Teamwork

In any work environment, teamwork is key to achieving goals and staying productive. In a healthcare setting, teamwork matters on every level — whether this means the administration is able to work collaboratively with service line leaders to keep budgets on track and patient records organized or that nurses and doctors are able to collaborate in administering care, teamwork is a key skill. 

7. Positivity 

Maintaining a positive attitude doesn’t just make the work day more enjoyable. Positive employees are 12% more productive than others! Not only does positivity impact productivity, but it impacts other team members. It’s cliche, but positivity really is contagious — multiple studies show that positivity can spread emotionally to other people. This is called “emotional contagion,” and it’s likely the only contagion healthcare leaders actually want in the workplace. 

8. Time Management 

Time management refers to one’s ability to complete tasks well and in a timely manner by consciously controlling how one’s time is spent. Whether this means filing paperwork on time, juggling multiple patient care plans, or even using scheduled meeting time effectively, time management is a key skill for anyone in healthcare. 

9. Problem-solving 

Problem-solving includes every step from identifying the problem and its causes to determining the best solution. For healthcare leaders, this soft skill is absolutely crucial when determining the best care plans, policies, and procedures to deliver effective patient care. 

10. Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is the ability to help two parties with differing opinions reach an agreement. In healthcare leadership especially, this skill is necessary to align stakeholders so that policies and processes to improve care can be implemented effectively.

Utilizing Soft Skills to Align with Stakeholders

Despite the multitude of innovations in workplace technology and efficiency, relationships are still the conduit through which most work takes place. Building strong relationships is, and will continue to be, essential for effectively completing projects and tasks. Despite this people rarely spend the time and effort necessary to build strong relationships with the stakeholders they will need to rely on to be successful. Becoming a strong relationship builder takes effort, attention, and intentional development of soft skills. 

The ability to use emotional intelligence to empathize and communicate with other team members effectively is absolutely crucial. Whether seeking to implement a new way of organizing patient records or building and implementing a new population health strategy, stakeholder buy-in is key — and soft skills can help get it. 

"Nothing zaps energy faster than a seemingly easy project or process derailed by lack of soft skills. Whether it's a meeting that goes off track due to poor time management, unclear delegation leading to team members duplicating efforts and experiencing role confusion, or team members feeling uncomfortable voicing a dissenting opinion resulting in a bad organizational decision, a lack of soft skills can lead to more work being needed to complete simple tasks. Over time this can lead to disengagement and even burn-out if not resolved."

 — Tara Satlow, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions, TLD Group  

Utilizing Soft Skills to Effectively Lead Your Team

Soft skills aren’t just necessary when achieving leadership buy-in, they also heavily impact one’s ability to lead a team. Healthcare leaders should use key skills like conflict resolution, adaptability, communication, positivity, and more to effectively lead their team. This not only helps directly impact the team’s productivity, but sets an example for employee behavior in the workplace. Leading with empathy helps the entire team work more cohesively. 

"The process of leading with empathy is thoughtful and strategic,” says Tara Satlow, Senior VP of Client Solutions, TLD Group, “It's a honed skill that requires the leader to slow down and listen to what their team member really needs from them at that moment, whether that's spoken or unspoken." Soft skills are absolutely crucial to ensuring team members feel comfortable voicing concerns and receiving the necessary resources and tools to perform at the top of their ability.

Final Thoughts

Soft skills are a necessity for healthcare leaders. Whether working in a purely administrative role or directly with patients, soft skills make a huge difference in job performance and overall team productivity.

Interested in building the soft skills of yourself or your team? Contact us and see how our expertise in leadership development can help build your team’s soft skills.

Topics: Leadership Development, Healthcare Ecosystem, Leadership, Leadership Resources, Executive Coaching, Team Development, Collaboration