What Do They Mean by “Soft Skills”?

In his Forbes.com article titled Here Are The Top 5 Soft Skills I Look For In Candidates, Mark Pena opens by saying, “In an automating workforce, soft skills are the irreplaceably human element of work - and the thing employers are desperate to find.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the idea of soft skills referenced throughout my career, but I’ve rarely heard anyone provide tangible examples of soft skills that I could learn quickly or apply immediately. I’m not suggesting that it’s not possible or never happens, I’m just saying it’s rare… Soft Skills seem to almost always be something that’s ambiguous, or something that you either have or you don’t. I’ve just never been willing to buy into that idea, especially when I hear things like “you get hired for what you know but you get fired for who you are…” (There’s even a Psychology Today article with nearly that exact...

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Some Very Tangible Intangibles!

OK, let’s pretend the nearly 275% increase in profit that we just looked at doesn’t make a strong enough case for being intentional about focusing on ongoing professional development… I mean those particular numbers were only based on the study referenced by the Association for Training and Development, showing the impact on revenue per employee and overall profitability. But other areas of a business can ongoing professional development impact?

Over the last two decades, I've taken part in the orientation process with more new employees at the various companies I’ve worked with than I can count. It’s pretty exciting when hiring happens because the company is growing, but it’s far less of a thrill when the push is to fill the spots of people who leave the company voluntarily. And more often than not, this is a significant cost that’s not tracked all that effectively - with regards to the direct costs of recruiting or the total indirect...

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Communication Skills in the Workplace

We closed the loop on Why is Effective Communication Important? by looking at how quickly we can see the results show up with the team members around us. It’s rare for me and Cindy to have a conversation about the importance of effective communication with any of the business leaders we support and not reference the Salesforce.com study citing that “86% of the executives surveyed attributed lack of collaboration and ineffective communication as the primary reasons for workplace failure.” Couple that with the detail shared by the Harvard Business Review showing that an engaged employee contributes up to 57% additional discretionary effort yielding as much as 20% great individual performance and the reasons for building strong communication skills into an organization’s culture becomes far more than just a neat idea… Developing communication skills in the workplace rapidly turns into one of those things that can’t happen soon enough! 

Before I...

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It’s Not My Fault!?

Be it a job we didn’t get, a performance issue in our department, or we just busted our tail on a patch of ice in the parking lot, a fairly natural inclination is to look for someone we can assign the blame to. And in many cases, we’ve even built fancy processes to guide us in doing just that; 5 Why, Root Cause Analysis, 6 Sigma just to name a few…

Oh, I know… The real intent behind each of those problem-solving tools is actually identifying breakdowns within a system in order to prevent recurrence and produce better results moving forward. But is that what typically happens? 

And this issue certainly isn’t limited to corporate cultures, the barrage of personal injury attorney commercials on the afternoon TV we play to keep our dogs from barking at every single noise in the universe drives that point home daily! Nearly everywhere we turn, something in society points a proverbial finger of blame… This has become such a common issue that...

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Empowered To Accomplish The Mission

Think back to the mission statement I shared as I opened the last post; “Delivering customer satisfaction with empowered employees using continuous improvement to get it right the first time, every time.” The piece about empowered employees sounds warm and fuzzy, but what does that really look like? What would that really require?

We hear the word empower quite often these days. As with how frequently the term leadership is tossed around in describing anyone with a title or position, regardless of whether or not they actually do anything at all that truly leads anyone, many of those folks in those roles talk about empowering their people but I’m not sure that happens all that frequently…

A quick internet search shows me that empower, a verb, is defined as “to give (someone) the authority or power to do something.” 

While simple, I believe that action can have amazing results in earning our team members’ buy-in on the mission our...

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But I Don’t Even Smoke?

A little over twenty years ago, a friend of mine was promoted from his role as a machine operator in the department we worked in to supervising that same department on an off shift. In those days, even the night shift crew had a ton of seniority and experience. That company had a much deserved reputation for being one of the best employers in the area… I had been there for two years or so and was still one of the newest people in the building!

While nearly everyone had significant experience, I’m not suggesting that everyone was actively engaged and working to exceed expectations like we’ve been discussing through the last few posts… In fact, one of the most senior guys on the shift, although being a true master of his craft, was about as actively disengaged as anyone I’ve ever seen!

Let’s pretend his name was Tim… Tim was a smoker. Before I move on, this isn’t meant as a shot at anyone who smokes - it’s just the story I...

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Authority or Influence?

In early 2001, I read a book by John Maxwell and Jim Dornan called Becoming a Person of Influence. One of the most significant things I remember from the first time going through that book was how John shared that so many of the folks he interacted with who were serving at high levels of their respective organizations seemed to have very little interest any what he was teaching about leadership but those same folks were devouring what he was putting out on developing influence. As executives and upper level managers, they were often of the opinion that they were already leaders so why waste their time learning any more about that. Many of them did, however, recognize a need for learning how they could develop more influence with the individuals reporting to them…

That explanation was the first time I recall John making the statement that “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”

As I was reading that book, fresh off reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of...

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What Does It Really Cost?

As I wrapped up the last blog, I referenced a study that showed how many organizations lose as much as 17 hours per week to miscommunication. Unlike the Salesforce.com study, I couldn’t put my find on any of the additional details that study covered or who conducted it. That said, I found it! We typically share these statistics during the second lesson of our Emerging Leader Development course, Critical Principles for Effective Communication… Here you go:

According to an SIS International Research study, the cumulative cost per year due to productivity losses resulting from communication barriers is more than $26,000 per employee. Not only that, the study found that a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communications. Translated into dollars, that’s more than $530,000 a year.

I go on to detail out that math for companies half that size and twice that size, just so participants have a chance to relate it to the...

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