Tag Archives: soft skills

Soft Skills – A Career Killer

Soft skills are associated with one’s emotional intelligence quotient and are a main factor in the success of one’s individual contributions to an organizations success, either their own or someone else’s.  Soft skills are related to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social abilities.  They are a complement to hard skills; that is, a person’s knowledge and occupational skills.  Soft skills are important because they deal with personal interactions, which are a major factor in today’s global market.  These skills do contribute to organizational success, but more importantly, they will impact individual career success.  In research from the research firm, Leadership IQ, it was found in a study of 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill.

Soft skills are a challenge for everyone.  These skills aren’t taught in college or the workplace.  For the most part, society rewards those with talents in specific soft skills, such as negotiation, influence, communication, creativity, networking or cross-cultural competence.  Today’s leader struggle with soft skills because of the global nature of business and the increasing demand for diversity.  Every culture places a different value on each soft skill and, in most cases, defines them differently.  For example, Americans love to negotiate, but the Australians don’t value it as much and are less confrontational than Americans.  Therefore, a balance must be utilized in such negotiations.  Too often leaders fail to regulate (or develop) their soft skills when interacting with other cultures and ideas.

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In a survey by Korn Ferry last year, CFOs mentioned that the most important skills they need now are not the technical skills.  It’s the soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, that separate the great financial professional from the average one.  Why? Financial professionals are frequently becoming key decision-makers and business leaders in organizations.  They provide vital information needed for critical strategic decisions. Therefore, they must be capable of interacting with a diverse set of stakeholders – from peers to boards, investors to government officials – and they have to communicate such information effectively and efficiently.

The important part of soft skills is to understand what they are and how others define them.  This can be done by a simple process, reading.  In a book released in 2013, BT Consulting identified the nine key soft skills that are most important for leaders in the global economy today.  These include power, negotiation, influence, cross-cultural competence, communication, self-discipline, creativity, interpersonal relations and networking.  Once you understand these, you can utilize a simple 12 step plan to begin to improve your abilities with respect to each soft skill.

Here are the steps:

  1. Assess your weaknesses before someone else does. There are numerous tools on the web to help you identify the social skills you need to improve.
  2. Practice. Once you know what you need to improve practice, practice, practice. Mastery of almost any skill requires repetitive exercise.
  3. Ask for feedback. Get your friends, family and coworkers to assess your strengths and weaknesses. This gives you continuous feedback on your progress.
  4. Study the experts. We all know people who are really good at a particular social skill. Study what they do and ask them to support you in developing that skill.
  5. Take risks. Experiment outside your safe zone. This allows you to truly assess your authenticity, as opposed to learning specific behaviors in a common setting.
  6. Set specific goals. Don’t attempt to improve everything at the same time. Identify each skill you want to improve and plan it thoroughly. Then, implement the plan.
  7. Be active in groups and associations. There’s no better place to develop social skills than in a social setting. Be active. Participate.
  8. Get training where you need it. No college degree provides everything you need. You must seek continual improvement of your skill set.
  9. Fight your bad habits. You know you tendencies better than anyone. Learn to recognize them when they occur and change them instantly.
  10. Avoid today’s standard methods of communication. Don’t text, tweet or email. Engage in direct communication as much as possible.
  11. Focus outward, not inward. When practicing your skills, don’t focus on getting people to like you but focus on learning more about other people.
  12. Control your emotions. Focus on the skills you are trying to develop and avoid accepting the emotions pushed on you by other people. Building skills is tough. Maintain the proper attitude and people will respond positively.

If you’re going to work on your skills, the soft ones do more for career mobility than the hard ones.  Sure, you’re likely to work for some really challenging people in your career but you must remember to focus on improving yourself.  You can’t change them.

 

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Why Should You Get An MBA?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I don’t just recommend doing anything because it is trendy, especially when it comes to spending a lot of your money and even more importantly, a lot of your time.  The MBA is a great tool for your career; that is, if you use it correctly.  If you don’t have an MBA, you may be asking yourself “how do I use the MBA?”  Well, it’s more than the degree we are talking about here.  Let’s look at this in more detail.

The GMAC 2014 Prospective Students Survey Report states that the MBA provides three key benefits:  skills, networks and brand.  Were these in your initial thoughts?  They weren’t in mine.  I thought education was about learning those quintessential skills that make you valuable to the business world.  Of course, I didn’t graduate from a top tier business school, where the mentality is quite different.  According to many top tier graduates I’ve worked with over the years, networking and branding are major subjects that are studied and perfected during the program.  Grades are not as important.   So, you can learn from the top tier programs that the “MBA Experience” is very important to future success.  If you just enter your MBA program with the intent of only learning new skills, you’ll miss out on two-thirds of the overall benefit of the MBA Experience.

We’ve looked at what MBAs do with their degree.  Take a look at our presentation. If you’re a basketball fan, you’ll love it.  It’s March Madness and the MBA_2015.

Naturally, not all MBA programs are equivalent when it comes to the experience.  Top tier programs will be more organized and geared towards the networking and branding aspects.  Most every other program will suffer in these areas.  And some programs won’t provide anything at all.  I would dare say that most MBA programs are in this category.  Sure, you can read a few articles that say MBAs are in high demand but economics would beg us to understand the supply side of this before making a decision.  The problem for MBA aspirants is that it is difficult to truly assess the supply and demand side of the MBA.  So, your only choice is to gather as much information as you can and make the best decision possible.

But where do you go for such information?  Often, aspirants seek information from the MBA programs themselves.    This is a good place to start but it shouldn’t be your only source of information.  After all, the problems you’ll run into with the MBA will be post-program issues.  Universities will have limited experience in this stage of your career.  For example, I’m a father of three kids and I’ve seen the birthing of each child but I can’t tell you what it feels like to give birth.  You have to go to the source for that; that is, the mother.  Well, if you want to know the impact the MBA has on your career, you need to ask someone who has had that experience.  In other words, ask the MBA graduates.  After all, they are the ones who are trying to build their career with the MBA degree.  Wouldn’t that be a good source of information?

Before you make any decisions about the next two years of your life and the destiny of a whole lot of your money, take the time to understand the impact the MBA has on your career by reading the stories of MBA graduates from around the globe.  Their experience will enlighten you and give you insights that will help you maximize the return on your personal investment.

We’ve taken the time to capture the knowledge of MBAs from around the world on many topics that affect MBAs directly.  These topics aren’t the kind of issues that get addressed during your MBA program (and never will be) but they are REAL WORLD issues faced by MBAs every single day.   Click below to learn more about What MBA Graduates Know.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I don’t just recommend doing anything because it is trendy, especially when it comes to spending a lot of your money and even more importantly, a lot of your time.  The MBA is a great tool for your career; that is, if you use it correctly.  If you don’t have an MBA, you may be asking yourself “how do I use the MBA?”  Well, it’s more than the degree we are talking about here.  Let’s look at this in more detail. The GMAC 2014 Prospective Students Survey Report states that the MBA provides three key benefits:  skills, networks and brand.  Were these in your initial thoughts?  They weren’t in mine.  I thought education was about learning those quintessential skills that make you valuable to the business world.  Of course, I didn’t graduate from a top tier business school, where the mentality is quite different.  According to many top tier graduates I’ve worked with over the years, networking and branding are major subjects that are studied and perfected during the program.  Grades are not as important.   So, you can learn from the top tier programs that the “MBA Experience” is very important to future success.  If you just enter your MBA program with the intent of only learning new skills, you’ll miss out on two-thirds of the overall benefit of the MBA Experience. We’ve looked at what MBAs do with their degree.  Take a look at our presentation. If you’re a basketball fan, you’ll love it.  It’s March Madness and the MBA. Naturally, not all MBA programs are equivalent when it comes to the experience.  Top tier programs will be more organized and geared towards the networking and branding aspects.  Most every other program will suffer in these areas.  And some programs won’t provide anything at all.  I would dare say that most MBA programs are in this category.  Sure, you can read a few articles that say MBAs are in high demand but economics would beg us to understand the supply side of this before making a decision.  The problem for MBA aspirants is that it is difficult to truly assess the supply and demand side of the MBA.  So, your only choice is to gather as much information as you can and make the best decision possible. But where do you go for such information?  Often, aspirants seek information from the MBA programs themselves.    This is a good place to start but it shouldn’t be your only source of information.  After all, the problems you’ll run into with the MBA will be post-program issues.  Universities will have limited experience in this stage of your career.  Look, I’m a father of three kids and I’ve seen the birthing of each child but I can’t tell you what it feels like to give birth.  You have to go to the source for that; that is, the mother.  Well, if you want to know the impact the MBA has on your career, you need to ask someone who has that experience.  In other words, ask the MBA graduates.  After all, they are the ones who are trying to build their career with the MBA degree.  Wouldn’t that be a good source of information? Before you make any decisions about the next two years of your life and the destiny of a whole lot of your money, take the time to understand the impact the MBA has on your career by reading the stories of MBA graduates from around the globe.  Their experience will enlighten you and give you insights that will help you maximize the return on your personal investment.   We’ve taken the time to capture the knowledge of MBAs from around the world on many topics that affect MBAs directly.  These topics aren’t the kind of issues that get addressed during your MBA program (and never will be) but they are REAL WORLD issues faced by MBAs every single day.