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Recent studies from Gartner and LinkedIn highlight employee skills gaps as one of the top contenders for the 2023 employee crisis. Between the great resignation, talent shortages across many sectors, and increased costs of living, a chronic skills gap is the icing on the cake.

What’s more, Gartner found that close to 60% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done, while LinkedIn found that nearly half of learning and development (L&D) leaders say the skills gap is widening. 

An employee skills gap means an employee is missing the right type or level of skills in order to do their job effectively. Right now, the skills gap is rife between technical skills and core skills. While this may become evident throughout an organization, it is most obvious among managers. 

Because of the recent emphasis on technical skill training, those who work their way up the corporate ladder tend to have superior technical skills. The organization moves these successful employees into more senior roles but tend not to prepare them adequately for the shift in skills needed for their new positions. As a result, many of these leaders do not have the needed people skills to work with, lead, or motivate others. The reason? They have failed to develop their core, or power, skills.

Core skills, also known as power skills, were previously referred to as soft skills. The change in terminology reflects the equal importance for workplace success. Technical skills are the chassis. Core skills are the engine. You can’t have a car run without both components.  

Unfortunately, skills gaps can lead to reduced profits, limited innovation or agility, and increased employee turnover. Let’s explore the common management mistakes caused by a lack of core skills, and how you can fix them. 

The 8 most common management mistakes

All of these mistakes result from a lack of core skills. Comprehensive Learning Solutions has been reducing that gap through customizable courses focusing on communications, project stakeholder management, and more. The input received before and during trainings corroborates the findings of the mistakes below.

Let’s explore these mistakes. 

1. The underestimation of complexity, cost, and schedule

You know what they say: hire someone smarter than you. Which is all well and good, but not always the case when it comes to management. One of the most common contributors to apparent poor performance is a manager’s lack of knowledge surrounding a task’s complexity, cost, or timespan. 

Managers need to have a solid understanding of the tools and processes their teams have. While technical skills are important here, core skills enable managers to understand the implications of a new project on the various constituencies. 

Holding facilitated focus group sessions, getting expectations defined and agreed to up front, and avoiding being overoptimistic on schedule or cost (mainly to win the work) are critical to avoiding this pitfall.

2. A lack of communication resulting in failure of control over requirements or scope

If a manager isn’t given the complete autonomy to hit a goal, and is simply leading a task for another stakeholder (or worse, a group of them), then that manager has little control over the requirements, which leads to scope creep, as the project warps beyond what the manager had initially set it up to be. 

This mistake can be fixed by increasing management’s communication, leadership, and adaptability skills. These skills enable teams to communicate better and have a better understanding of project requirements or scope. 


3. Inconsiderate communication

Over-communicating and under-communicating are very real issues, and there’s a fine balance management needs to find. Over-communication can lead to burnout and a lack of luster for innovation, while under-communication can lead to entire projects progressing in wrong or divergent directions. 

You may have guessed that improving communication as a power skill is a win for this. But, it’s not a home-run. It helps to choose a training provider that specializes in communication, and who can help train your team up on what I’ve coined: considerate communication.

4. Failure to engage stakeholders

Oftentimes a lack of team performance comes from the team leader failing to engage stakeholders in the correct way. When teams are responsible for their work and successes, they’re more inclined to create great work. 

However, peripheral teams (not part of a project but affected by its outcome) need to remain in-the-know. Otherwise, they are apt to bring up issues just before going live that either cause the project to come to a halt or delay while something is fixed. Or, the system goes live but nobody uses it or uses it improperly because it doesn’t meet their needs. 

This can be solved by engaging stakeholders with focus groups, town hall meetings, regular updates, surveys, soliciting input, review points, and more. 

Comprehensive Learning Solutions (CLS) can help organize, strategize, design, and facilitate these kinds of strategic communications that are so vital to internal project success. 

5. Failure to address culture change issues

Even the most experienced managers make this common mistake! The world has changed and with it the demand on management. Managers who were in the position before the COVID-19 pandemic need to realize their workforce has entirely different needs now. 

Gallup found that a whopping 90% of US employees with desk jobs are not longing for the office-first cultures they once knew. To add to this, 40% say they would consider changing jobs for a hybrid-work culture. 

The even bigger issue happens when an organization tries to change its culture or the way it does business, including switching from one software system to another. People have habits and customs. Change is difficult and uncomfortable. Nobody wants change. A successful project must proactively address the culture change that is likely to occur as a result of the new initiative and get people positively prepared for it. Otherwise, the fear of change will sink the ship.

Managers need to take responsibility for transitioning properly, from cross-training staff, to having a written record of how to do the most important functions, to a clear file structure so people can find documents, to managing the emotional issues of change.

Managers need to accommodate and adapt (big power skill) to change first so they can find new ways to drip change out to teams.   


6. Not providing feedback

The ability to communicate effectively is a core skill every manager needs, yet one that is very rarely taught. Too often managers either do not provide feedback or provide it in a detrimental way.

Managers need to provide constructive feedback to employees. Improperly given feedback can result in employee disengagement, tarnished relationships, and higher turnover. 

CLS offers training on how to have difficult conversations, and how to give constructive feedback in a way that does not result in defensiveness.

7. Failing to define goals and expectations

In order for any manager to excel, a team needs to be hitting daily, monthly, and quarterly goals. These goals are often communicated via management before being cascaded. 

There are two areas where many managers go wrong when it comes to goal-setting. Firstly, not telling people what the goals are. Secondly, not properly aligning lower-level goals with higher organizational goals. 

These issues can be fixed with core skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and teamwork skills. 

CLS offers training in goal-setting and strategic planning. If you are struggling with this, get in touch today. 

8. A lack of risk management

Any leadership role requires a certain amount of risk management.  Risk is everywhere, whether you are starting new projects, hiring new staff, implementing new strategies, or anything else. Managers need to harness more than hindsight if they hope to keep their teams happy and prosperous. 

Unfortunately, time crunches and looming demand from senior leaders often mean that managers’ risk management tasks are put on the backseat for immediate action. This reactive approach, rather than proactive thinking, can result in major project disruptions in the future. Problem-solving skills are a great win to help overcome this problem.

In addition to our main thoughts, also consider:

Training methods that can help managers better understand project complexity, cost, and schedule include:

  • Role-playing: This can help managers to experience the challenges of managing a project from start to finish.
  • Case studies: These can provide managers with real-world examples of how other managers have handled difficult projects.
  • Simulations: These can give managers the opportunity to practice managing a project in a safe environment.

How to train employees on project complexity, cost, and schedule includes:

  • Providing them with clear and concise instructions.
  • Breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Setting realistic deadlines and expectations.
  • Providing regular feedback and support.

Building a community at work can help to improve communication and collaboration, which can lead to better project outcomes. Training activities that can help to build community at work include:

  • Team-building exercises: These can help team members get to know each other better and work together more effectively.
  • Social events: These can provide team members with opportunities to relax and socialize outside of work.
  • Mentorship programs: These can help team members to learn from each other and develop their skills.

When choosing a training provider, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Experience: The provider should have experience in training managers on project complexity, cost, and schedule.
  • Reputation: The provider should have a good reputation for providing quality training.
  • Cost: The provider should offer competitive rates.

Also, it is important to understand the following definitions for better results

The difference between training and coaching is that training is a general approach that is designed to teach a specific skill or knowledge, while coaching is a one-on-one relationship that focuses on helping the individual to improve their performance.

Communication vs training is that communication is the sharing of information, while training is the process of teaching someone how to do something.

Closing out on management mistakes and how to deal with them

Knowledge gaps clearly contribute to unstable business structures. At the same time, a lack of emotional intelligence among management can lead to low engagement and innovation among teams. Good management takes a certain amount of technical skill and a sophisticated level of interpersonal skills to build trust, talent, and great work. 

Let’s remember that core skills are not just interpersonal communication skills, they are everything non-technical: time management, risk management, innovation, resilience, problem-solving, decision-making, the list is long!

If we really want to shrink this skills gap, we need to become more externally-focused. We need to change our thinking from being “all about me” to “all about us.”  In essence, that is what core skills training tries to do. 

When management is able to focus on the power skills of the entire organization, rather than just themselves, the business will benefit ten fold. 

Do your managers keep asking questions like these:

  • How can we disagree with clients or stakeholders without jeopardizing the relationship?
  • How can we build trust while distributing responsibilities?
  • How can we control the scope and still please our project stakeholders?
  • How can we ensure the team knows what everyone is doing without overburdening them with too many meetings or reports?
  • How can we deal with many diverse personalities in the same ‘room’?

If so, CLS could be exactly what you need to help bridge skills gaps within your business. Get in touch today to find out more. 

Karen Feeley
Karen Feeley

Instructional designer

Karen Feeley is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in workplace learning and development. She is a published author, trainer, instructional designer, editor, and project manager with a proven track record of success in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

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