Do you sometimes feel like you’re talking, but no one’s listening? Your mouth is moving, your team is staring at you intently, nodding, agreeing on tasks and then one week later you’re still talking about the same thing. The needle isn’t moving, work seems stagnant and you feel like you’re running in circles. Before you place the blame on your team, take a few minutes to assess yourself for five soft skills you might want to improve.
Soft skills are fundamental for business, work and life. Whether you work on a team, are a solopreneur, spend your time behind a computer or are in front of a crowd, you need basic soft skills to communicate, provide great customer service and work well with others. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) there are five soft skills that are a part of your emotional intelligence quotient and help you interact with others effectively.
Soft Skill #1: Problem Solving and Decision Making
Regardless of where you work you are faced with a multitude of decisions and problems every day. As you go through your daily to-do list, having the confidence in your ability to take effective and productive steps to identify problems and make suitable decisions creates an atmosphere where your team knows they can count on you to lead them in the direction that’s purposeful.
You don’t need an engineering degree to be a great problem solver. Problem solving is like putting together pieces of a puzzle. Start with the corners and edges to create the framework. Then fill in the missing pieces. Don’t aim for perfection. Instead, aim for a solution that fits within your budget for both time and money.
Soft Skill #2: Internal and External Communication
Knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it can be the difference between motivating your employees to perform and receiving lip service. Being critical, unprofessional or using inappropriately toned dialogue and gestures can be confusing, demotivating and frustrating for everyone.
The good news is that you don’t need to be the VP of Communications to be a great communicator. A slight change in wording or a neutral gesture can improve the conversation. Sometimes, a strategic pause can make all the difference. Taking a moment to think about what you say before you say it can drastically change the tone and content of your verbal message and create a productive outcome.
Soft Skill #3: Planning, Organizing and Prioritizing
Throughout the day you’re constantly being pulled in different directions. Your team members believe that their question or request should take priority over anything else. Providing a framework for prioritization is critical to empowering others to make decisions, freeing you up to focus on strategic issues rather than tactical ones.
The first step in creating a framework involves identifying the key metrics that you want to achieve this year and beyond. Create a roadmap for your business, with milestones and quantifiable measurements along the way. Like the edges of a puzzle, your team will familiarize themselves with the framework, and then work to fill in the missing pieces. When they find a piece that doesn’t fit, they put it aside, deprioritizing it until the puzzle it belongs to becomes a priority.
Soft Skill #4: Obtaining and Processing Information
While everyone has a unique way of learning and processing information, there are things you can do to create structure and efficiency that help you sort through the clutter, skim and identify the critical few and make inferences based on the data that you’re presented with. Time can be your best friend when used efficiently and your worst enemy when it’s wasted.
Set up a few recurring reports or have your team deliver them to you weekly. Ask them to make them easy to skim by using bullets and delivering the most important information first. Then set aside an hour at the beginning of each week to interpret the information so that you can create an action plan that will make that week productive.
Soft Skill #5: Working in a Team Structure
Improving the four soft skills above will help improve your ability to work well with others. You may have started your business alone, but you won’t grow it alone. Having the right people in the right roles, communicating effectively and prioritizing the work are essential to taking your business in the direction you want to go.
But what if your team isn’t performing? Team building activities can help, but only if the team is built on a foundation that’s strong. Take some time to help team members identify their strengths and work with each other to leverage them on the job. Kolbe A™ and Kolbe B™ Indexes are great assessments to start with. When combined with a great corporate coaching program, your team can start to become the highly functional team that it needs to be.
Often teams get use to the way they do things and don’t recognize the opportunity to change. Hiring a professional coach to assist in identifying and leveraging strengths is a great first step towards achieving higher productivity and achieving the efficiencies you need to grow your business.
Happier teams who are able to use their communication skills effectively to perform their daily activities have higher productivity. Businesses with happier employees have less employee turnover and can significantly reduce the costs of replacing staff with new hires. A professional coach can work directly with both management and staff to help find those areas of strength and weakness.
Everyone wants to love their job, especially if they’re spending over 25% of their life there. I often tell people they often spend more waking hours with their co-workers than their family, it is important to get along. Often times, hiring a coach and going through the team foundation building process can mean the difference between a team that shows up for a paycheck and a team that arrives at their job with passion and commitment. The later will drastically change all areas of your business.
If you’d like to know more about how I can help your team go from under performing to highly effective, schedule a meeting with me today.