DCN ARCHIVES

September 3, 2004

Many managers challenged by people skills development

Enhancing soft skills pays dividends

It’s no secret, says management consulting firm ZweigWhite, that many managers in architecture, engineering and environmental consulting firms are challenged when it comes to people skills such as communication, team-building and staff and client management.

“For this reason, more and more professional development programs are including elements focused entirely on enhancing the soft skills of their next generation leaders,” says senior vice-president Mick Morrissey.

“The smarter firms recognize that it’s not all about training their folks in financial management, contract writing or project management. Rather, the firms who ‘get’ professional development recognize the critical nature of soft skills in developing effective and highly functional teams throughout the organization.”

Mick Morrissey

Development of soft skills is tricky for many firms, says Morrissey, who has drafted some tips for firms in this regard:

• Start with the individual. Help your managers understand their individual strengths through some personality testing or profiling. This is always a positive experience and will allow them to play to their strengths.

• Move to the team. Share the personality profiles of your managers with other managers in the firm.

This will allow them to better understand how to interact with and communicate with each other.

• Bring it all together. Use teambuilding exercises to provide a “safe” environment for your managers to test their strengths, try out new communication techniques and build relationships.

“There’s nothing worse than sitting through a lecture on leadership or team-building,” Morrissey says.

“Use half of your time or more immersing your managers in collaborative challenges and you’ll get the most bang for your buck from your soft skills development sessions.”

ZweigWhite provides management consulting services to design, environmental consulting and construction firms.

Based in the Boston-area community of Natick, the firm has additional offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

—Patricia Williams

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