Technical skills will get you to the career ladder but your soft skills will get you up it.
The further you go up that career ladder the harder and softer it gets. Harder because you must deal with ever more complex situations and moving parts. And it is softer because what matters more than anything is your ability to build solid relationships with customers, partners, employees and any other stakeholders.
Most people focus on their technical skills because they are tangible, they have real world results. If I do X then Y is the output. According to Fosway, Europe’s number 1 HR analysts, soft skills are only becoming more important, and online training is seeing a huge increase in budget spend.
Is my soft skills training working?
Here is the challenge – soft skills are clearly important but they are harder to measure. What you consider to be a great moment of leadership might have someone else rolling their eyes. Imagine a scenario where you overhear a salesperson talking on the phone and you believe it to be a car crash of a pitch only for the customer to enthusiastically buy your product. What works in one situation might be a lead balloon in another. Measuring soft skills is hard because it is not binary. With technical skills, either something is right or wrong – there is a binary nature to it, the widget either works or it doesn’t. Soft skills are harder to pin down.
Soft skills training takes time
So how do you improve and measure your soft skills? The answer is you eat the elephant one bite at a time. You start small with one idea or concept you would like to attempt and then simply go for it. Try it out, if it works – great. If not, reflect on it, readjust and go again.
Imagine a scenario – you are the L&D manager tasked with providing soft skill training for the company. You are both a buyer and a seller. You are buying a solution of the soft skills training but you then have to sell it to the individual employees. There could be an issue where you want a particular team to improve their abilities to work together, maybe they are not good communicators which leads to miscommunication and mistakes.
The employees are possibly going to see what you are offering as a potential waste of time. Why? Because the vast majority of training that is provided is a waste of time. It is done in block sessions and no one remembers anything that is provided. You must keep in mind that people will find you if you can solve their external problem but they will buy from you if you can solve their internal problem. They might seek out resources from L&D because they are obliged to complete a certain amount of training in a year. But they will buy from you if you solve the anxiety they feel before a big presentation.
Failure is an essential component in Soft Skills
As the training manager you need to be aware of this dynamic and ensure that you have structured you’re offering to the employees in terms of the intrinsic motivation they will feel. They must know that improving their soft skills will just make their lives easier. It really is that simple. The next thing they need is the confidence to try. Or more specifically, they need the confidence to fail. Failure is the secret sauce to success.
Individuals must be aware that there is a certain amount of failure baked in they are willing to try.
They must have courage.
Courage is when you are afraid and then decide to move forward in spite of the fear.
It can be that it is their chimp that is holding them back
Tell them that no one is going to know you are practicing a particular soft skill. For example you might want to improve your ability of being more assertive or more direct with someone who has a domineering personality so you go to Radical Candor or Just Work both by Kim Scott. No one needs to know what you are doing in your mind in a meeting. And in fact you can probably make more progress if you are quietly going about your improvements without input from others.
In other situations you might want everyone to know so that you can get as much feedback as possible. Imagine a scenario where you are deliberately practicing your sales technique and you want to get feedback from your team. In that case you want to ensure people are listening to your calls and giving you feedback in as close to real time as possible.
There may be other scenarios where you are tasked with managing a project to completion. There are likely to be aspects of the project that require you to develop skills you do not currently possess. That can involve either making something public or not.
Soft skills are the foundations of business success.
If you are want to achieve any of the following:
- Make more money
- Get promoted
- Spend less time at work
- Cut down on procrastination
All of it stems from improving your thinking. This might mean, being able to think on the fly during a sales conversation, or being able to control your nerves before an important presentation or regulate your emotions when you are going through the horrible task of firing someone. All of it comes from mastering your mind. And that is really what soft skills are all about. Getting a handle on them is where your success comes from.
The secret to your success though, is your failure. That is what is left out of most stories about how someone finds success. They either edit out the sad parts of their journey to tell a better story. Or! It never occurred to them that what we might deem as an unsuccessful attempt at something was actually a failure. The really successful people inherently understand that success has failure baked in. It is a natural part of the process.