For years I bought into the false dichotomy that there has to be a significant dominance as to which side of your brain was more prevalent over the other. The perception that in order to be great at being analytical, one had to be nearly devoid of creativity. In order to be exceptionally creative, one had to be disorganized and unable to properly analyze things. My erroneous view of this led me to all but abandon my creative traits in order for my thinking to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have since resigned this dogmatic view and have embraced the reality that both can be influential. As a true entrepreneur at heart, I actually use both hemispheres of my brain fairly equally. Of course there is a more dominant side, but I’m quite happy about the balance. People who genuinely have a significant left-brained dominance can seem a bit out of their element if the proverbial “soft skills” are part of their leadership responsibilities.
Sure it’s important to stretch yourself as a leader and develop greater skills, but it shouldn’t cause a near nervous breakdown simply because it is further away from your default settings. I have seen so many great left-brained leaders struggle and be so unnecessarily anguished by the need to do soft skills better. One of the ways I have suggested to previous clients, colleagues and friends is to make use of something already at play within every organization. Systems.
Even the most creative, innovative and visceral organizations have a systemic dynamic behind everything. Left-brained folks can see patterns, analyze them and use them to their advantage. So, here are some suggestions to make that work for soft skills.
- Make a list – I know. You’re left-brained and you love me right now. The fact is, lists make sense to left-brained people. Use that to your advantage. There are key elements that make up quality soft skills. Knowing what they are and how they impact leadership and the performance of people is important information. Keep this list handy. Perhaps you could put it in one of those handy folders you have labeled so astutely.
- Prioritize – Which items on your newly formed lists occur with the most frequency in your organization/team? I know you know, because you were probably sorting them out as you made the list. Carry that urge a bit further and prioritize them based on frequency, urgency and potential impact…in that order. I just lost the right-brained crowd, but this is brain candy for my left-brained friends.
- Analyze – Yet another chance to give that hemispheric dominance something fun to do. Look at the systems in your organization. Which systems have a natural tendency to support the high frequency, urgent and potentially impactful items on your list? Perhaps they may be spread around to a couple of systems. It could be a macro-system that is more organizational. Dealers choice.
- Refine the systems – Look for ways in which the functional nature of the system can support the soft skills elements. Perhaps a need to escalate a problem due to lack of expertise can be used as a training opportunity and support engagement/professional development. Use that. I would say be creative here, but I think that may undermine the point of the post. There are some amazing ways to utilize existing tools and levers within your organization to support the implementation of soft skills.
Being left-brained and in a position of leadership that requires a significant focus on soft skills doesn’t doom you to an eternity of feeling awkward and a little out of touch. Play from your strengths and let the systems already functioning within your organization be a leverage point for you to improve soft skills implementation in your leadership.
In the same way creative people can run a company, analytical people can do soft skills quite well. It’s a bit like poker. It’s more about how you play your hand than the cards you’re dealt.
What are some ways you have used your left-brained dominance to excel at right-brain behavior?