Thanks to Bruce, a management revolution has taken place at Joe’s Crab Shack.
Ray Blanchette, President and CEO, Au Bon Pain; President and CEO, Joe's Crab Shack (2007-2015)

Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, The Human Element: What Role Are You Going to Play?

If you are not an active champion of high priority soft skills behaviors in your sphere of influence and authority, then you can be sure that the young talent in your midst will not buy in. If key leaders are not walking the talk — and talking the walk — Gen Zers will simply roll their eyes at the best slogans and logos. No matter how vividly clear the messaging and training has been throughout the hiring and on-boarding process —even if key soft skill behaviors are part of their individual performance plans— if their leaders do not emulate the high priority behaviors themselves and emphasize them in their day to day management, Gen Zers will not believe the organization is serious. As much as they may seem to take their cues from peers or on-line sources, you can be sure that they will take their cues about what aspects of performance really matter from the authority figures with whom they interact most.

Sure you need to get your young employees to own their soft skills learning process and make available lots easy to use on-line resources so they can pursue their own self-directed learning. But that doesn’t let you off the hook. You’ve got to spend time with them – in person whenever possible — to lead them to the purposeful self-directed learning and you’ve got to spend time with them during the intervals between their self-directed learning sessions.

Remember: Gen Zers love grown-ups. They prefer to have a real person in the real world who is investing in their learning and growth – a real life grown-up who is engaging with them, holding them accountable, and recognizing their success every step of the way. More important, the very nature of soft skills is such that they are very hard to develop without the help of another human being who can serve as an objective third party observer and source of candid feedback. Ideally that human being would be one who is a bit older and more experienced, perhaps one with greater influence and authority – one who can provide guidance, direction, and support.

If you are leading, managing, or supervising any person on any project for any period of time, talk about the high priority soft skills in team meetings and talk about them in your ongoing one-on-one dialogue. Trumpet them. Require them. Measure them. Reward people when they practice them. Hold people to account when they don’t.

This content originally appeared in our Just Thinking Newsletter.