Bring your humanity to work: Renata Sguario on why it pays to nurture the soft skills

- December 19, 2022 4 MIN READ

With workplace culture and your team’s wellbeing front of mind in today’s landscape, success is no longer defined by numbers.

Renata Sguario has spent the past three decades helping people unlock their potential with her work in the learning and development space. In 2019, she kicked corporate to the curb to embark on her own business – launching MAXME.

Renata joined Cec Busby, Editor of Flying Solo, to share how democratising human skills development in workplaces will revolutionise the game, boosting productivity and success.

What it takes to be a great coach

Over the last three decades, Renata has built a career on her fundamental belief that thoughtful coaching is the most effective way to drive success within people. However, the exact role of coaching is often misunderstood, according to Renata.

“Often people think someone’s just gonna tell me what I need to know and what I need to do,” she says. “True coaching at its essence is trying to unlock the answers from within a person.”

A great leader does more than simply delegating and instructing amongst their employees. Long-lasting success and development requires far more thoughtful consideration from both sides. Coaches know the right questions to ask, are great listeners, and understand how and when to build on a person’s ideas.

“True coaching conversation can be really powerful because actually the person owns the answer, owns the outcome, can see the pathway forward, and you’ve guided them on that pathway,” Renata says.

Most people, no matter where they sit on the chain of leadership, have an intrinsic fear of failure holding them back from risk-taking and achieving success.

“Sometimes we don’t take risks or we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zone because ultimately we don’t want to fail,” Renata says. “People who don’t take those risks have slower growth and really don’t learn as much about themselves over the long run, as those that are willing to take that risk.”

Yet Renata is adamant that great leaders need to see the failure and adversity that often come with risk-taking as an opportunity to learn.

“If you don’t fail, you don’t learn,” she says. “You can’t predict the future. All you can do is take a punt, back yourself and work hard towards a great outcome.”

Listen to Renata Sguario on the Flying Solo podcast:

How 30 years of corporate led to MAXME

Throughout her career, Renata found most companies’ performance management was far too focused on tangible deliverables, often ignoring the wellbeing of the people behind them.

“For me, it always made a lot of sense that that potential was realised through what I call ‘human skills’, otherwise known as soft skills,” Renata says. “My performance conversations with people were not of the traditional way, but really asking, ‘Who are you? What’s happening for you? What’s on your mind?’”

Realising her unique approach to performance management, and the wonderful results it achieved when embraced by others, Renata set out to share her passion with teams big and small. MAXME aims to unlock the professional and personal potential across teams everywhere, democratising the development of human skills like collaboration, empathy and communication.

“These skills are needed everywhere, and they’re not taught anywhere,” she says. “They’re not taught at school, they’re not taught through tertiary studies. You might find yourself in the four per cent in the talent programming organisations that get anointed with this sort of learning.”

While traditionally, these ‘soft’ skills have been undervalued in lieu of more tangible talents, workplaces across the country are beginning to see the long-term value in investing in this kind of development.

“70 per cent of the skills you’re going to need are soft skills,” Renata says. “As we start to engage in a deeper conversation across the spectrum, from employers to educators … everybody’s agreeing on the opportunity.”

Young female executive in office

How to coach with intention

Renata has cultivated extensive programs explaining how to best support and nurture your team as a leader, but insists the most fundamental step anyone can take towards better leadership is to listen.

“Make the time to connect with your staff; make the time for them to feel special, seen, heard and valued,” she says. “Be authentic and vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up to your staff and to let them see who you truly are as a human. It’s much more inspiring to be connected and led by someone whom you believe is very reachable and human, rather than someone who’s up there in an ivory tower.”

When it comes to toxic workplaces – the leading culprit in non-productivity and stress – Renata says it’s important to analyse the permanence of a situation before you call it quits.

“At the end of the day, you do need to decide what’s best for you, and wellbeing is important and being able to work at the top of your skill is important,” she says. “So, if it’s a workplace that doesn’t suit you, make some different decisions. But before you do that, try and work out if it’s now or forever, and what you can do to try and encourage others to be better.”

Renata urges those in a leadership position to look in their own backyard, believing focusing on retention of your existing staff is far more beneficial than challenging your energy and funds into the hiring process.

“Your role as a leader is to create more leaders,” Renata says. “To actually set your staff up for success.”

Renata Sguario on the Flying Solo podcast

Renata shares more of her development wisdom in this episode of Flying Solo.

Listen to the latest episode of the Flying Solo podcast now:

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