Soft Skills and Conflict Management: the importance of Team Building

The globalisation of the world of work, the introduction of information technology and internal reorganisation, with matrices aimed at enhancing the value of intellectual capital, have produced major changes in companies.

In order to survive in rapidly evolving, not always predictable realities, business organisations must be prepared to continually change their structures, processes and sometimes even their purpose whenever possible.

Organisational Communication

In a context characterised by renewed paradigms, organisational communication comes to assume a role of primary importance. Only correct, far-sighted and ethical management of human resources can guarantee the stability and consequently the success of a company.

In fact, it is precisely through organisational communication that one can bring about those important changes for the realisation of a new way of doing business, to foster innovation, the functioning of central and decentralised structures, and put in place operational strategies with a view to overcoming those critical processes such as the complexity of managing organisational conflict, the emotional climate in the team, and establishing relationships based on mutual trust.

Soft Skills

The term Life Skills refers to a set of knowledge, actions, attitudes and values that represent useful tools for achieving one’s personal and professional goals.

Analysing the field of study of Life Skills, described in 1992 by the World Health Organisation in its publication “Bulletin No. 1”, the importance of a fundamental core of skills grouped into three areas emerges: emotional, relational and cognitive. The first area includes self-awareness, emotion and stress management; the second includes empathy, effective communication and interpersonal skills, and the last one is decision making, problem solving, creativity and critical thinking. Of course, the competences that can be included in Life Skills differ according to the culture and context.

The new organisational models focus on the individual and his intellectual capital as the core and reference point for the entire management. We discussed these issues with Professor Gloria Meneghini, lecturer in the Master in Human Resources Management and Master in Corporate Communication at the Rome Business School, who told us:

In my experience there is still partly a misperception about soft skills: some people think it means being polite or not expressing one’s opinion completely in order not to get into conflict with one’s interlocutors.

On the contrary, soft skills are real competences: working with entrepreneurs, consultants and company directors, what emerges in my context is that those skills identified as soft skills can, on the contrary, be considered the new hard skills. From my point of view, communication skills play a decisive role among the skills and even more so the ability to understand communication styles. To be able to do this, it is necessary to distinguish between content and relationship and to learn to use the feedback tool – etymologically feed means “nourishing” – which is another fundamental and improving moment in relationships that I believe is closely linked to the creation of a culture of trust. Of course we are talking about bottom-up and top-down feedback.

Finally, the ability to adapt to change is fundamental, which means knowing how to thrive in uncertainty, as theorised by the Lebanese mathematician and philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the book ‘The Black Swan’, who described how a single event, the black swan, can be enough to invalidate an acquired belief.”

Team Building

One of the pivotal issues in the knowledge economy concerns the level of employee engagement and the tools that companies must put in place to retain the best talent for success in an ever-changing world of work.  Corporate welfare, work-life balance, growth plans but also interaction, sharing of values and team collaboration: these are the decisive keys that increase the sense of belonging to a company. Team Building aims to promote integration between groups, and aims to increase the motivation of employees and consequently their productivity.

Kurt Lewin and Bruce Tuckman

The philosophy of team building has its roots in the studies on group dynamics from the beginning of the last century. Among the first to explore the group concept were the social psychologists Kurt Lewin and Bruce Tuckman. Lewin’s main idea was that ‘the group is more than the sum of its individual parts’.

Even more significant was Tuckman’s approach, who developed a model for the evolution of group relations in the work environment by theorising about five phases that form the theoretical and practical basis of team building: forming, storming, normalising, performing and adjourning

“Team building in my view is one of which: a way, not the only one of course, that helps to reflect, to put into practice the importance of working in a context where you experience the ability to be able to communicate with paradigms different from your own – understand your style and adapt mine – and where the element of trust becomes a key factor, because trust breeds trust and consolidates the team.

Team building activities, which take the form of team experiences, team games and role-playing games, are excellent opportunities to promote team spirit and inclusive resource management. Activities are created on an ad hoc basis to stimulate performance improvement, development of soft skills and personal growth. There is a growing attention of companies towards these issues also in a vision of communication with cultures of different origins. This is emotionally involving not only from a professional but also from a human point of view.”

Conflict Management

Conflict situations are often encountered in the everyday working environment. Conflict management is one of the skills that a project manager must master and is a capability that combines mediation and negotiation, because it is precisely through these constructive conflict management strategies that it is possible to consolidate the team.

According to the analyses of Kenneth Kaye, an American social psychologist who has devoted himself to studying the attitudes of social groups and conflict resolution, no conflict can be attributed to a single factor, but tends to be produced by the co-presence of various elements: personal, environmental, endogenous and exogenous. According to Kaye, some conflicts damage the process, others on the contrary are able to bring great benefits to the team because they can stimulate creativity, synergy and above all plurality of opinions.

“In addressing the topic of conflict management, I believe that the ability to train patience is greatly underestimated.  When faced with obvious conflicts, one must first ask oneself what type of conflict one has to resolve: personality, communication, organisational or process. In fact, the solutions and answers to our questions change according to the context. Here we return to the assumption of the need to emphasise the difference between content and relationship. If we are faced with a content problem, e.g. process-related, the solution will be found in an internal re-organisation. 

If, on the contrary, the problem is relational, we will have to focus on communication styles.  Of course, real situations are always more complex, but having a theoretical matrix helps one to be analytical and more pragmatic in the interventions required.

In my experience, I am not speaking in absolute values of course, I have found that the clearest problems to interpret and solve are often related to managing emotions, especially for company executives and top managers.

GLORIA MENEGHINI

Gloria Meneghini was born into a family of entrepreneurs, where pragmatism, solution-finding and continuous innovation are the order of the day. Today, the same approach and passion characterises her work as a consultant and trainer in the field of communication and business organisation. She believes in the importance of building experiential pathways based on the needs of the individual and the team to enhance their development. He has worked and works in instructional design, development and implementation projects in Italian and English for Italian and international corporate and organisational contexts. He is a lecturer at the International Masters of HR, MBA and Marketing and Communication for Rome Business School

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