As a change management professional, you’re equipped with an impressive toolbox full of hard skills.

You have your wrenches, sockets, bolts, and everything else you need to take on the technical challenges of change management.

But here’s the problem—this well-stocked toolbox must now interact with people. 

This is where the real difficulty begins.

The Risks and Dangers of Ignoring Soft Skills

Unfortunately, that impressive toolbox doesn’t come with a manual on soft skills.

That’s because these soft skills are typically acquired through years of experience in management consulting, but most change management professionals don’t come from that background.

Instead, you are likely the brilliant technician–adept at using your tools in the metaphorical auto shop until you’re thrust into a role that requires the finesse of business development and the power of persuasion.

But more than ever before, change professionals who want to stand out are expected to be able to build and nurture relationships with senior leaders, influence stakeholders, secure buy-in from teams, navigate difficult conversations, handle challenging situations, and more.

When you don’t have the soft skills necessary to elegantly handle these challenges, you may find yourself struggling to gain credibility in your organization or with your clients.

Rather than being seen as a trusted advisor, you may be relegated to the role of a “doer”—a project resource whose value is measured solely by your ability to complete deliverables.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a reliable executor, it stifles your growth and diminishes your professional brand. 

Your professional brand becomes synonymous with simply getting tasks done, rather than driving change or leading transformation efforts.

Moreover, with the rapid advancement of change management technology and the rise of AI, technical tasks that once required human intervention are now being handled by sophisticated software and machines. 

This trend is only set to accelerate, posing a significant risk to those who rely solely on their technical skills.

Developing soft skills is no longer optional—it’s essential.

Building and honing these skills will not only enhance your effectiveness as a change leader but also elevate your professional standing, allowing you to influence, inspire, and drive meaningful change within your organization.

The Three Core Categories of Soft Skills

To have a greater impact and stay relevant in the face of rapid technological advancements, you need to master three core categories of soft skills: empathy, relationship-building, and communication.


Empathy is the cornerstone of effective leadership. It allows you to connect with stakeholders, understand their concerns, and address issues with compassion and understanding. 

Key skills include:

  • Listening at the Level of Concern: Beyond surface-level listening, you must show that you truly understand and care about the concerns being raised.
  • Providing Solutions: Acknowledge issues genuinely and work collaboratively to find solutions. This builds a culture of trust and problem-solving.
  • Handling Tough Conversations: Don’t shy away from difficult discussions. Approach them with empathy and a clear intent to resolve issues.
  • Navigating Difficult Situations: Stay calm and composed during crises. Your ability to manage stress and guide others through tough times is invaluable.


Navigating up the organization and adding value to a sponsorship relationship is crucial. It’s not just about having a relationship with a sponsor but creating a dynamic where your value is recognized and sought after. 

Key skills include:

  • Developing Rapport: Establishing a connection with key stakeholders is the first step. Learn how to engage them in meaningful conversations and find common ground.
  • Building Parity: Create a balanced relationship where your input is valued equally. Show that you bring something unique and indispensable to the table.
  • Creating Demand: Position yourself in such a way that sponsors and senior executives see the need for your expertise. Become a trusted advisor they turn to for guidance.

Effective Communication

Your professional brand and impact hinge on your ability to communicate effectively. Without strong communication skills, your hard-earned relationships won’t translate into influence or leadership. 

Key skills include:

  • Active Listening: Engage in conversations with your full attention, showing that you value the other person’s input. This builds trust and opens up more meaningful dialogues.
  • Neutral Positivity: Maintain a positive but neutral tone, which helps in presenting yourself as approachable and composed, even in challenging situations.
  • Reframing Problems: Help others see issues from different perspectives. This skill is particularly useful in facilitating solutions and moving projects forward.
  • Delivering Bad News Constructively: Learn to communicate setbacks or challenges in a way that is honest but constructive. This can help maintain morale and keep projects on track.

Mastering these soft skills will not only enhance your effectiveness in your current role but also solidify your professional brand as a leader who can drive change and inspire others.

Presence and Character: The Invisible Influencers

Building on the foundation of relationship-building, communication, and empathy, there’s another layer of soft skills that profoundly impacts your effectiveness as a change management professional: presence and character. 

Daryl Conner, a respected advisor, author, and speaker with 50+ years of change management experience, emphasizes the importance of character and presence in creating leverage and influence within an organization.

“Character is what is left after all the trappings and illusions have been stripped away. It is here that your optimum impact resides. Of all the things you can draw on to create leverage with those around you, your true nature, the indigenous core of who you are, is your greatest asset…Presence is like a force field that you project when you express aspects of who you are. It is the temperament you emit that serves as the conduit through which your character comes.”

Daryl Conner, from Character and Presence: Guest Post by Daryl Conner on

Elevating Your Change Management Skills with Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

The need for change professionals to elevate their soft skills is reflected in the work of Dr. Linda Ackerman Anderson

Linda is the Vice President and Co-Founder of Being First, Inc, an organization that seeks to help leaders solve complex challenges and strategically navigate large-scale change.

In her program, Leadership Breakthrough: Walk the Talk of Change, Linda walks change professionals through four essential steps to develop their change management leadership skills:

  • Self Mastery: Gain personal breakthroughs and manage your inner state to boost performance.
  • Relationship Mastery and Communications: Build mutual trust, resolve conflicts, and ensure effective communication.
  • Team Mastery: Transform groups into aligned teams and foster open, honest discourse.
  • Organizational Culture & Transformation: Model desired behaviors, stop low-performance habits, and build a culture of accountability and trust.

Take the Next Step in Your Professional Development

Don’t wait to invest in your professional development. 

With rapid advancements in technology and AI, significant changes are coming down the pike–fast. 

Within six to nine months, if you’re only focused on tasks, you might find yourself replaceable.

The CMR Coach Approach: Coaching Skills for Change Management Professionals Certificate Program™ can help. 

In this 8-week course, you’ll develop essential soft skills like relationship building, influencing leaders, and powerful communication. 

Limited to 15 participants for personalized attention, this program will future-proof your career and make you an invaluable asset to your organization.

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