How frequently and effectively do you recognize, engage, and coach the people you lead? Are these strengths or weaknesses? How do you know? What’s your awareness of your self-awareness?

As organizations rebound and rebuild for the coming years, Coaching and feedback - Jim Clemmer's Leader Letterthese “soft skills” are key to higher performance. A Towers Watson study entitled, Perspectives: Turbocharging Employee Engagement — The Power of Recognition from Managers found, “companies with a highly engaged employee population reported significantly better financial performance (a 5.75% difference in operating margins and a 3.44% difference in net profit margins) than did low-engagement workplaces.” They also found that companies with higher engagement levels “produced returns 9.3% higher than the returns for the S&P 500 Index.”

Towers Watson found that key elements of engagement are caring leaders, development opportunities, and feelings of empowerment or ability to control one’s own work. The role of recognition was an especially striking finding in their study: “strong manager performance in recognizing employee performance increases engagement by almost 60%.” There’s a good hard result from a soft skill.

Their Global Recognition Study found three keys for managers:

  • Engage in Candid Conversations – personal, not just information, and listening to opinions and concerns.
  • Define Clear and Relevant Performance Targets – focus on top goals, break down objectives, and clarify responsibilities.
  • Hold People Accountable for Their Results – evaluate performance accurately and address low performance effectively.


The dilemma is that too often average or low performing managers think they’re doing a much better job than others feel they are. And it’s their lack of self-awareness that both causes and covers up the problem. In “Soft Skills Boost the Bottom Line“, Green Peak Partners and Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations report, “self-aware leaders who possess strong interpersonal skills deliver better financial performance.” They found, “executives whose interpersonal skill scores were low scored badly on every single performance dimension. A high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success…executives who are conscious of their own weaknesses are often better able to hire subordinates who perform well in areas in which the leader lacks acumen.”

This is consistent with the growing body of research on Emotional Intelligence. Self-awareness is the foundation upon which the other personal development habits and interpersonal skills are built. So how are you doing? How do you know?