It’s a New Year
As we turn the calendar page to a new year, many of us are motivated by the clean-slate feeling that a new year brings. We get caught up in how this year will be different than the last. We’ll eat healthier; go to the gym more frequently; learn new skills to help us in our work roles; and finally understand the new technology in our own homes (thanks to our kids who explain it to us!).
With that high level of motivation, though, how often do we think about sharpening our soft skills?
Did you know that soft skills have been identified as more important than hard skills in job success? The National Soft Skills Association, an organization dedicated to the dissemination of research and best practices in the assessment and teaching of soft skills, will tell you all about it. In a recent article about soft skills, the organization noted that while it has been 100 years since the 80 percent soft skills/20 percent hard skills concept was identified for job success, the importance of soft skills training is still not being heard.
We’ve all seen the pictures of icebergs with 20 percent visible above the waterline and 80 percent still hidden below. Along with these pictures often come descriptions of success and the accolades that come with it above water, with hard work, persistence, determination, (and blood, sweat, and tears) appearing in the underwater portion of the picture. Now transfer those descriptions to hard skills above water and soft skills below.
Who Needs Soft Skills Training?
As a soft skills trainer and coach, I have certainly been told by prospective clients that the money in the budget is set aside for tangible needs like software training, and there is nothing left for the fluff of intangible soft skills. Each time I hear this, I feel compelled to ask:
- What leadership abilities do you see in your managers and supervisors?
- How about your front-line staff? Do you consider them to be leading themselves effectively?
- How many strong employees have you lost due to internal conflict and communication challenges with co-workers and managers?
- How would you rate your customer loyalty? Do you receive positive or negative feedback about your clients’ interactions with your staff?
- Are your team members productive? Do they have strong abilities in time and priority management, or is there too little being accomplished?
- What percentage of your employees could be rated a 10 in initiative, dependability, work ethic, and attitude?
- Is your staff actively engaged in the work they do each day, or do they need prodding to do what they’ve been hired to do?
- How many problem solvers are in your organization? Do employees see problems as a challenge or a threat?
- Have you hired more people who play the blame game or people who take personal accountability for their results?
You see, I’m a believer in the iceberg model. I firmly believe that people can be taught the hard skills necessary to be successful in any job. It’s the soft skills that set adequate employees (and people, in general) apart from exceptional ones.
Addressing Issues by Investing in People
I have a client who is unhappy with the performance of one of her employees. This employee treats clients disrespectfully; she wastes time each day unless someone watches her whereabouts in the office; she shares with co-workers how much she dislikes some company policies; she doesn’t pitch in to help when others are struggling with overloaded work priorities; and she engages in conflict with several other team members on a regular basis.
Now this is a situation I’m equipped to handle! This is what I do! Successful leaders with great responsibility and extreme time pressures hire me to help them with employee challenges just like this. Great, right? Wrong.
You see, this client is concerned that addressing the situation with soft skills training and coaching may mean the employee will quit. Wait… what? When I heard that response from my client, I couldn’t help but think of Zig Ziglar’s quote:
“The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is to not train them and have them stay.”
Leaders Leading Effectively
When leaders choose to ignore the importance of soft skills training and coaching, they are essentially saying no to achieving greater results. They’re allowing their fear of conflict, of the unknown, of utilizing budget money to control their actions (or lack thereof). They are turning down the opportunity to develop stronger employees and more confident, competent people overall.
Turning that calendar page to a new year motivates me just as much as anyone else, and as I begin 2018 having the privilege of helping people be even better versions of themselves through soft skills training and coaching, I’m using my own soft skills to continue to work with that client. By the time the next page is turned and we’re moving into February, I am confident my strengths in communicating tough messages will have resonated with my client, and we’ll be well on our way to sharpening the soft skills of her problem employee as well as herself and her team as a whole!