Why soft skills matter in managing change and innovation

What we can learn from the scientific research on effective change management

Francesco Marcatto
Jun 24 · 5 min read

What drives change effectiveness?

The importance of organisational change, and the incredibly low rates of success of its implementation, made many researchers starting to study which are the leader characteristics (in terms of personality traits, skills, and abilities) significantly influencing change success.

Soft skills

Soft skills is an umbrella term for social and communication abilities, with a strong emphasis on cognitive and emotional empathy.

  • Ability to effectively reward or recognise others;
  • Effective communication ability;
  • Ability to motivate others;
  • Ability to involve others;
  • Ability to encourage teamwork and collaboration.

Soft skills for hard changes

Two different studies conducted by Ann Gilley, professor of Management at Ferris State University, and colleagues, were aimed exactly at identifying which are the leaders’ skills mostly associated with success in implanting organisational changes ( study 1, study 2).

Motivation & Communication

These results are not surprising at all. In the past years, I’ve written extensively about communication in team and project management (for example, here, here, and here).

  • Why they have to do something;
  • That they are free to use their skills and knowledge to perform their tasks as they want;
  • That if they have some problems, their manager will listen and help;
  • That they are making [progress toward a meaningful goal;
  • That they won’t be blamed for mistakes;
  • That they are appreciated and important for their team and company.

Bottom Line

Soft skills matter, especially for leaders, managers, directors, and everyone who has a relevant role in the organisational change.


Mindiply: Smart Thinking At Work

Tips, thoughts and insights for working smarter, not harder. Made by the people at Mindiply.com

Francesco Marcatto

Written by

Organizational psychologist, researcher, lecturer, coffee lover, co-founder of Mindiply.com

Mindiply: Smart Thinking At Work

Tips, thoughts and insights for working smarter, not harder. Made by the people at Mindiply.com