How can you get your employees to embrace critical soft skills, especially the ones we refer to as “the old-fashioned basics”? Often they simply don’t realize how much mastering soft skills could increase their value as employees—not only right now, but for the remainder of their careers.
Give Them Examples
One of the best ways to help your employees recognize and appreciate soft-skill mastery is by providing examples—little profiles of people, real or fictional, who are truly engaged in their jobs.
For instance, when I’m trying to help people in the retail world understand the power of soft skills, I tell them:
Imagine a cashier who is always early, bright eyed, and cheerful, moving through transactions swiftly and steadily while greeting customers warmly and crisply, up-selling enthusiastically, answering customer questions accurately and concisely, and solving customer problems whenever they arise. When there are no customers waiting, she keeps everything clean and organized behind the counter, jumps in to help others, and always watches the counter in case there is a customer approaching.
When I’m trying to help people in healthcare understand the power of soft skills, I tell them:
Imagine a nurse who not only stays late and takes very few breaks, but whom patients know by name and trust and look forward to seeing. He sees more patients, spends more time with patients, knows more patients by name, and smiles at more patients, and notices subtle changes and recognizes important symptoms even when they are not conspicuous. He can give a patient or a patient’s family a greater feeling of dignity and comfort.
When I’m trying to help people in IT to understand, I tell them:
Imagine the network systems administrator who not only keeps the hardware and software running and updates systems, but tracks recurring user issues, finding root causes and implementing systemic solutions to recurring problems. She doesn’t just maintain storage, but also explores the cloud or other innovations. She’s not a manager in title only, but a highly engaged leader who coaches the other systems administrators and technicians on the team.
And here’s what I tell accountants:
Imagine the accountant who not only knows the rules, follows the rules, and helps his clients follow the rules, but also has the guts and tact to talk clients through the difficult details and the savvy to help them ethically navigate them. He also has the initiative, creativity, and innovation to find a hidden opportunity or invent the next great loophole.
So many people—at all levels in all organizations—fall for the myth that soft skills are a “nice to have” rather than a “must have.” That is a huge mistake. Don’t let anybody fool you: Soft skills are a necessity. For the vast majority of your workforce, soft skills are the key to your success in the workplace and competitive differentiation in the marketplace. They are the source of a huge amount of power, and a secret weapon for any smart organization, team, leader, or individual performer.