| By Meridith Elliott Powell |
Yes it is true: I am a fan, a believer, a devotee of the soft skills. If it were up to me, we would update school curriculum’s to include the art of speaking, the skill of writing, and the science of how to engage and really connect with people. Again, if it were up to me organizations and companies would have at least one-half of their learning and development budgets set aside for leadership, networking, building relationships and communication courses, and hands-on training. The result, I believe, would be less stress, more engaged students and employees, and most importantly – hard, tangible, and positive bottom line results.Why am I such a fan of the soft skills? There are a number of reasons: I mean who doesn’t enjoy working and engaging with someone who understands how to hold a two-way conversation, or reading a well-written article, or working for a leader who really understands how to listen, engage, and develop people? But, if I had to keep my answer short and simple, I would say I am a fan because I believe the soft skills are the fastest route in this economy to profitability.
In fact, in today’s world I believe the soft skills are the only real competitive advantage that we have. These are very different economic times. This is not an economy that is up, not an economy that is down, it is an economy that is different, radically changed and it is never going back to the way it was. Think about it – globalization, advancements in technology, increased competition – we could all sit around in our underwear for weeks on end and Google until our hearts are content, and have everything we want, need, and desire delivered right to our front doors – everything. We have become the kings and queens of Amazon Prime. We can order food, products, services; we can meet new people, date, make friends, attend events, all online. We can do almost anything we want without ever talking to or speaking with another individual, without ever having to leave the comfort of our own home. That fact, right there, changes everything – everything; it makes what we sell or offer a commodity, but how we sell or offer it, that is now our competitive advantage. And how we offer it – that has everything to do with our ability (and our employees) to deliver the soft skills.
If you want to succeed in this economy, an economy I have come to call the trust and value economy, then you need to invest in getting yourself, your team, and your entire organization up-to-date on the soft skills! As a leader you need to understand the importance of them in attracting new customers, the value of them in deepening and expanding existing relationships, and the role they plan in attracting, retaining, and developing talented employees.
So, what are the top “must have soft skills” for the trust and value economy?
Flexibility – how stretchy are you? How willing are you to bend to accommodate a customer, a co-worker, or the market place? Yes, the hard skills tell us exactly the rules, policies, and procedures we need to follow to be successful. And while those serve as a good guide, success in this economy is all about your ability to stretch, bend, and change. Customization is key when it comes to adding value to the customer relationship, and you need to invest in helping your team understand how to deliver the customization, how to be flexible without breaking the bank.
Communication – the business professional who can communicate with customers in a way that ensures understanding, buy-in, and ultimately action, is the person who wins in this new economy. Your ability to communicate your vision, exemplify your values, and match your actions to your words will have a great impact on the success of your company. Communication is a powerful soft skill that helps customers and employees understand who are you, what you are about, and the value they gain from doing business or working with you.
Connection – your ability to emotionally engage with other individuals, build bridges, and create cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships is a skill you need in a shifting, uncertain economy. Connection in this economy is how we emotionally bond with our customers and employees. It is how we establish trust, and win their permission to take the relationship to the next level whether than means getting a customer to buy a product or service, or an employee to truly engage with our organization. Your ability to connect will greatly increase your chances to win customers and retain talented employees.
Attitude – this economy is tough enough, no one and I mean no one, most of all a consumer with a lot of choices, wants to be around anyone with a negative, defeated, or just plain rude attitude. Consumers who are willing to do business – spend money – are looking for companies and individuals that are a pleasure to be around, fun to engage, and leave them feeling good about the experience. The attitude of not only you but also your team sets the tone in your company, and positive attitude shouts confidence and success.
Team Player – the more people who succeed in your organization the better off you are – employees and customers alike. You need to be a leader that inspires an organization that values, trains, and rewards teamwork. As a leader, you need to act as a team player and reward those that exhibit those traits –someone who is collaborative, someone who works to put the success of the whole ahead of the individual win.
Success today is about embracing and then mastering your touchy, feely side. You have to invest in developing and delivering on the soft skills. Understanding that what you offer in this economy is not nearly as important as how you offer it. And how you offer it has everything to do with how well you and your team are executing the soft skills.
Named one of the Top 15 Business Growth Experts To Watch, Meridith Elliott Powell is a keynote speaker and author who works with clients to help them decrease stress, increase profits, and leave their competition in the dust. Reach out and connect with Meridith: http://www.valuespeaker.com.