Team Collaboration Requires Leadership-Grade Communication Skills

A key finding from Gallup’s State of the American Manager 2015 study has been top of mind since I read it:

“…only one in 10 people have the talent to effectively manage others [and] companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time”

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked by these statistics. The numbers support the day-to-day experience of the vast majority of working professionals, where their management chain is “functional”, at best and, at worst, actively toxic.

On the off chance that you are one of the fortunate few who have personally experienced an effective manager, you may see your way to build the requisite skills in yourself. However, I expect it’s far more likely that teams “mentored” by ineffective managers are, over time, apt to become their own versions of ineffective leaders on an ever-repeating cycle.

Leadership Training helps

If you’ve managed teams in larger organizations, it’s likely you’ve experienced your share of training. It may have been a MBTI® or StrengthsFinder or maybe even a week-long retreat with 360 degree feedback and private coaching sessions. Sometimes training opportunities like these are made available to high-potential individual contributors or to those recently promoted into managerial roles.

From my experience, a majority of leadership training centers on developing the needed self-awareness and empathy required to communicate, build/maintain relationships and effectively influence and motivate people — your team, your peers and your boss(es). Given the criticality of EQ for anyone in a management role, this is exactly where the focus of training needs to be.

However, we all know how difficult it is to apply these learnings once back in the day-to-day. Like any skill, honing and improving on these critical EQ elements takes continued practice, reflection and active coaching; with improvement generally happening over years and not overnight.

So why do we wait to train people on these skills?

It occurs to me that the tenets knowing yourself, respecting the points of views of others and empathy in the workplace aren’t such complex and radical ideas in and of themselves. This isn’t quantum mechanics or theoretical physics where only a chosen few can effectively grasp and apply the concepts. Why, then, are only “leaders” given this training?

With the increasing flatness of organizations and the growing importance of working in teams, the need for individual contributors to effectively communicate and collaborate in cross-functional functions has grown exponentially. Participating in cross-functional teams where there is no organizational authority requires “leadership” grade communication skills and EQ to be effective. So I ask again, why do most organizations wait to provide this training?

Team collaboration requires leadership-grade skills

Given the current poor state of management today, and the growing complexity of today’s business problems requiring increased functional and global collaboration, it’s my belief that every professional needs to develop his/her EQ, communication and empathy skills from day one.

Team collaboration — across functions and across borders — is challenging in the best of circumstances given the number of people involved. Even those who are not in formal team leadership roles still must effectively represent their functions, contribute their ideas and actively solve problems in order for the team to deliver needed business results. This kind of collaboration requires everyone to have “leadership” grade EQ and communication skills, not just those holding management positions.

EQ skills takes years, to effectively learn, apply and refine. What’s the downside in getting all team members fluent in its principles and beginning to practice at the start of their careers?

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