Have you noticed a lack of soft skills? Lately, I often wonder if soft skills are going extinct. We are all guilty of momentary lapses in soft skills. We do this by not being mindful of our responses to questions, our tone of voice, or our body language. I’m not talking about the momentary lapses, even though they can lead to a detrimental outcome or an unintended negative consequence (Like bad first impression and no do over). Rather, I’m talking the general decline in the use of soft skills no matter the industry, time of day, generation, geography, or size of company. This begs the question, what can you do to maintain your soft skills? More than that, from a management or leadership perspective, what are you doing to make sure your staff develops and maintains their soft skills?
What Are Soft Skills?
What are soft skills? When I think soft skills, customer service and leadership effectiveness comes to mind immediately. The soft skills that are critical to both include: listening, communication, interpersonal skills, decision making, problem solving, demonstrating empathy, adaptability, ability to collaborate and build relationships. A majority of these soft skills make up our emotional intelligence (EI). According to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence.”
Why Soft Skills Matter
When you think about customer service (good service experiences) soft skills determine the quality of the experience. Soft skills create opportunities to build customer relationships and determine whether the customer wants to do business with your company. Soft skills have a direct impact on four business drivers of every company. I refer to these drivers as the Four Rs in a book I co-authored, Turning Rants Into Raves: Turn Your Customers On Before They Turn On You! The Four Rs are Revenue, Retention, Referrals, and Reputation. All four are what drives and sustains every business. Think about it. How are your soft skills impacting your Four Rs?
When it comes to successful leadership, technical skills become less important and soft skills become far more critical. According to Daniel Goleman, a top thought leader on emotional intelligence, “When it comes to the top echelon leaders, companies find that 80%-90% of the competencies that distinguish star leaders are built on emotional intelligence.” Read more at: http://www.danielgoleman.info/daniel-goleman-what-makes-a-leader-2/
Because the use of technology and mobile apps to interact with customers is on the rise, don’t forget about your social media channels and Chat Box. These require the use of effective soft skills too. Soft skills can be the differentiator to separate you from your competition.
What To Do
Whether you are a company of ten, one hundred, or one thousand, here are five tips that will prevent soft skills from going extinct:
- Set expectations. As managers and business leaders we must set clear expectations for staff. If we do not, they will do what they think is right. That may not be what you think is right!
- Observe and give feedback. Observing and giving feedback is essential to the performance of employees and the company as a whole.
- Model what you expect. Modeling the skills and behaviors you expect demonstrates what you value and employees will follow your lead.
- Ask for feedback. Asking your customers how well you and your employees are practicing soft skills gives insight to what you are doing well, and also what you can be doing differently or better.
- Provide training and coaching. This is as critical as setting clear expectations. Providing the training along with regular coaching can have the greatest impact on developing skills and increasing performance.