More Than Just a Catchy Phrase

In 2015, I invested a hefty amount of money and an even heftier amount of time into getting licensed to teach, speak, and coach using some of John Maxwell’s work. I was super excited about this since I had been studying everything I could get my hands on from John for over a dozen years leading up to that. The opportunity to pass just a few of the lessons along, since they had been so influential in my career progression to that point, was one of the most motivating things I had ever experienced!

In complete transparency though, there was one part of the licensing that just didn’t create a spark in me. I had been teaching teams how to build successful behavioral-based safety processes for years and I had spoken in front of groups all over the country at that point, but I was struggling with the coaching piece… As I looked around, coaches of all shapes and sizes were popping up all over the place; health coaches who weren’t in shape, life coaches who were...

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If We Can’t SEE It, We Don’t Usually Expect It...

Last time I suggested that the only real difference between soft skills and hard skills is that most hard skills only tie to certain fields where soft skills have the power of impacting nearly any type of work we’ll ever engage in. None of us come out of the womb being amazingly equipped with either type of skill; they ALL require cultivation throughout our lives if we ever hope to master them. And we should absolutely be seeing measurable results from the action steps we take in applying what we learn as we study any new skill!

The most common disconnect I’ve seen with this over the last twenty years has been that most of us have learned how to measure technical tasks; it’s fairly simple to track how many widgets can be produced in an hour or how many procedures can be completed each day. Measuring the effectiveness of what most people refer to as soft skills isn’t quite as straightforward because it rarely produces a stack of something at the end of an...

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Soft Skills vs Hard Skills

Now that we can answer What Do They Mean by “Soft Skills”?, let’s start building a comparison between Soft Skills and Hard Skills, the impact both types of skills can have in nearly any role, and then we’ll look at how we can ensure any skill development we invest in provides us with a tangible return.

I believe one of the main reasons so many individuals and organizations struggle to tie tangible return on investment is that we rarely even see an accurate comparison. An article I read on Forbes.com recently titled Are Hard Skills or Soft Skills More Important to be an Effective Leader? shared this:

Hard skills are teachable and most often technical skills, such as economic analysis, strategic planning or design. Soft skills fall in the interpersonal realm and include listening, team-building, and leadership development. They are not so much taught as cultivated. 

While that sounds reasonable at face value, I’m going to challenge you to think into...

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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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Speaking of Benjamin Franklin...

I closed the last post with a quote from Benjamin Franklin, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” and I promised to circle back with a look at how we can each expect to get a solid return on what we invest, personally and in our organizations. Interestingly enough, that same idea was the topic of conversation for me and Cindy earlier today as we filtered through a massive amount of junk mail and looked at the two pieces that actually had a bit of relevance; our quarterly IRA statements…

As we each made career changes over the last several years, we’ve rolled what we had in our respective 401(k) plans into IRAs; partly to avoid the crazy tax hit we’d take with an early withdrawal and partly to maintain some potential to recognize some level of ongoing interest. While our risk tolerance for our investments are nearly as different as our behavioral styles, the historic return on our plans have been nearly identical. Cindy’s,...

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Return On Investment

Had last week not been quite as packed as it was, we would have wrapped up this final response to Why is Effective Communication Important? and now be starting digging into Communication Skills in the Workplace. I could run through the list of craziness that’s packed the last 10 days or so but that wouldn’t get us where we need to be - and I doubt you care… So let’s work through one last response to Why is Effective Communication Important? so we can turn the page!

We started by looking at how the message we send can be so much different from what we intend if we’re not incredibly intentional about crafting it to specifically match the communication style of the other person. Then we looked at why effective communication is absolutely critical for anyone with leadership responsibility; “Leadership is influence. Nothing More, Nothing Less!” Those two reasons alone should make a strong case for why effective communication is important! But...

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Recruitment and Retention Strategies

As we worked through The Importance of Employee Retention, we looked at just a few of the direct costs that have such a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line when voluntary turnover is high. Now let’s start digging into some critical steps we can take to make each of our organizations a place great team members rarely want to leave AND a place that the best people in our industries WANT to come to work!

Before we get rolling though, I need to make a few statements that I really hope aren’t at all necessary: Building this kind of reputation for any organization will take ongoing effort! This will take time and commitment. It will also be somewhat difficult to achieve but far easier to ruin. When we get it right though, the juice will absolutely be worth the squeeze!

I’ve already shared what John Maxwell says accounts for as much as 65% of all voluntary turnover, people leaving their managers, and we’ve looked at why leadership development...

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How Do You Measure Success?

We closed last time by touching briefly on how critical it is to be able to measure tangible results as we work to avoid many of the reasons for why leadership training fails. Leading up to that, we looked at the wide variations in what’s even referred to as leadership training and we dug into the significant difference between knowing something and applying it… 

As Cindy and I begin working with an organization, or an individual leader within that organization, we always start the process by having a very strategic conversation with the primary decision maker(s) to develop a firm understanding of the issues they’re dealing with so we can assist them by providing the most applicable material for their team members and in creating the most effective plan for how their team members can take action on that material afterward. It’s incredibly important to understand where they are before we ever try to help them move forward! A while back while talking with...

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Accountable for Results

Once we’ve been intentional about defining leadership development, our work should be done! Right?

Before you fall completely out of your chair, laughing at that ridiculous statement, I’ll challenge you to show anything of significance that’s truly that simple… If we want to achieve significant results, especially the tangible results that make a measurable impact on our organization’s bottom line, we’ll have to be sure to see it through - not just issue a statement and call it done…

For close to 15 years, I worked for a Human Resource Manager who was always very vocal about what he expected from me anytime I attended any type of class or conference. I was required to report back to him, and often the entire management team, showing I had learned and what steps I would be implementing in the process I led. I was also responsible for seeing this through and for showing a tangible return on the investment that had been made for me to attend...

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Soft Skills that Make a Hard Impact

I closed the last post by bringing up one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen organization’s struggle with in determining whether or not they make an investment into the new skills someone will need as they transition into a role with leadership responsibility. When we’re intentional about accurately defining leadership development, we can begin to identify specific areas that need to be addressed in our growing team members. This is also where we should be establishing baseline measurements for a few key metrics that tie directly back to effective leadership - in the lack thereof…

Over the last twenty years, the most common push-back I’ve seen to making an investment in providing the necessary training and development that can be so critical in helping new supervisors and managers lead their teams effectively has been the concern of not knowing if it makes any difference at all. In so many cases, those soft skills are viewed as intangible and...

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