Interview: Discussing the Soft Skills Leadership Training

We spoke with Prof. Dr. Renate Motschnig and Mag. Dr. David Haselberger from the University of Vienna about the latest ZOIS Soft Skills training programs. We discuss the importance of leadership training, active listening and reflective writing.

Our latest training program is aimed specifically at middle management, providing a platform in which participants can voice their own experiences and learn from fellow colleagues and ZOIS members.

ZOIS: I’d like to welcome Renate and David to this interview about the second Zero Outage Soft Skills Training. I’m very happy that this could take place with quite a lot of participants. I think there were over 10 people. What was the motivation for you to design this training course?

Renate Motschnig: In the first place, we were motivated by our collaboration with ZOIS. During our project, we started to think how we could contribute to cultivating a culture of less outages. Based on the positive experience with the first training for operational staff, we decided to continue with a training for middle management. For this audience, we thought it would be great to deliver it in an interactive form, where everyone can share and learn from each other’s experiences. This project was a unique opportunity to deepen our collaboration with ZOIS and to bring to people what we have researched. We believe that this is very important for the industry.

ZOIS: Yes, the feedback was very positive and we have placed the quotes on our website. Could you tell us what is the method behind these two topics within the training; flow session and reflective writing?

David Haselberger: It’s about looking at significant moments in your work, something that made a shift in your experience, and that somehow changed something. You should take time to properly describe this situation and using our questions given during the workshop, try to get a different perspective on it. This is particularly relevant in zero outage situations so you can reflect on things that eventually went wrong or on situations when a mistake was made. It allows us to evaluate the situation and think how to prevent it in the future.

Renate Motschnig: We know from counselling and psychotherapy that writing is a way to move forward and to learn from your experiences. When you write you are really forced to put your thoughts into a sequence. In challenging situations thoughts might become fuzzy. Just putting them in a sequence can make things a lot clearer. That’s why the reflective writing sessions are so important. The flow sessions, on the other hand, give us an opportunity to share experiences in a safe atmosphere with a professional moderator. We can be open and share our experience in a group of like-minded people, see how they perceive it, get their reactions and hear how they paraphrase what we said. It also gives us the opportunity to learn from other’s experiences.

David Haselberger: Exactly. Having an external moderator also means that he or she can also point to aspects that are not visible to others or are simply neglected or ignored.

ZOIS: Very interesting. In the last module, we touched on agility; agile work, agile values. Renate, could you tell us a bit about agility and today’s challenges within zero outage.

Renate Motschnig: Agility is a methodology that becomes more and more important. The more changes there are, the more we are required to react to these changes. What we try to put across is that even more relevant than techniques are agile values; the internal flexibility, being prepared to listen well and to react to changes. It is crucial to understand that what you deliver might be more important than comprehensive documentation and that people and interactions matter a lot and should have precedence over any preconceived tools, even though the latter may be important at some point too.

ZOIS: Thank you for that.


If you’re interested in applying, you have two courses to choose from Soft Skills for Developers and Soft Skills- Leadership Management.

Please contact us if you have any questions.