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What are soft skills, anyway? Simply put, soft skills are the personal attributes that allows us to effectively relate to others. These skills enhance our personal interactions and lead to greater job performance and satisfaction. Unlike hard skills, which are the technical and knowledge skill set we bring to our work, soft skills are interpersonal and can be applied in a broad array of situations. Soft skills encompass both personality traits, such as optimism, and abilities which can be practiced, such as empathy. Like all skills, soft skills can be learned.
Definition of Soft Skills
Soft skills are personal attributes that allow us to effectively relate to others. Applying these skills helps us build stronger work relationships, work more productively, and maximize our career prospects. Often we place the focus of our career development efforts on hard skills – technology skills, knowledge, and other skills that specifically relate to our ability to get work-related tasks done. This means we neglect to develop our soft skills. However, soft skills are directly transferrable to any job, organization, or industry. As a result, they are an investment worth making.
Soft skills include:
- Showing Empathy
- Giving and receiving feedback
Empathy and the Emotional Intelligence Quotient
Empathy is perhaps the most important soft skill we can develop for better interpersonal interactions. Empathy is the ability to identify with another person’s experience. While we often think of empathy in terms only of identifying with someone’s pain or negative experience, we can apply empathy in a variety of situations. Developing empathy allows us to imagine ourselves in another person’s shoes, to respond to others, and even to vicariously experience others’ feelings of emotions. When we demonstrate empathy, we create connections with others, which can help to build teamwork or otherwise create shared goals. Empathy also helps to forge stronger interpersonal connections between team members and colleagues, which is as important as shared goals or complementary skills when it comes to accomplishing work.
Empathy is one component of what is known as Emotional Intelligence, or EI. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage our feelings so that they are expressed appropriately. Exercising emotional intelligence helps to create harmonious, productive relationships.
There are four key components to Emotional Intelligence:
- Self-awareness: The ability to recognize our own feelings and motivations
- Self-management: The ability to appropriate express (or not express) feelings
- Social awareness: Our ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others, and the norms of a given situation
- Relationship management: Our ability to relate effectively to others
Taken together, these skills make up our Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQI). The EQI is a measure of your ability to exercise soft skills such as empathy.
The word “professionalism” often conjures up images of a cold, distant, brusque person in a nondescript navy blue suit. In fact, many people have the sense that to be “professional” is exactly the opposite of demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence! However, professionalism is a key soft skill, and it doesn’t require you to be inauthentic, distant, or detached. Professionalism is simply the ability to conduct yourself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence. Acting with professionalism also means seeking to communicate effectively with others and finding a way to be productive.
Professionalism involves what may seem to be small acts, such:
- Always reporting to work on time and returning promptly from breaks
- Dressing appropriately
- Being clean and neat
- Speaking clearly and politely to colleagues, customers, and clients
- Striving to meet high standards for one’s own work
Learned vs. Inborn Traits
Because soft skills are talked about as traits of a person’s personality, it may seem as though you have to born with them. While some soft skills come more easily to one person than they might to another, soft skills are not inborn. Like all skills, they can be learned. Because we all have our own preferences and ways of moving through the world, some soft skills may be more difficult to learn than others. But if we think back, there are also aspects of our hard skill set that were difficult at first, though they now seem to come quite naturally to us. We develop soft skills in the same way we develop hard skills – we practice! Spending time with people who seem to be able to effortlessly demonstrate a soft skill that you find challenging is one way to build your soft skill set. Another way is to seek opportunities to practice in which the risk of failure is low, until you feel confident in your ability. You don’t have to be born a networker or an empathetic person – you can learn and build these skills throughout your career.
For more in our course “10 Soft Skills You Need”, please visit:
Attendance & Wellness Incentives –
Attendance incentives are based only on attendance. A good way to utilize an attendance incentive is by adding it to a yearly review. An employee may feel motivated to go to work more often if they have a chance of obtaining a raise. Unscheduled absenteeism is a chronic problem for U.S. employers, conservatively costing $3,500 per hourly employee, and $2,500 per salaried employee per year. Keeping employees motivated to go to work is essential to a company’s success.
Many companies are starting to realize that healthier employees mean lower insurance costs, and higher productivity. Wellness incentives are being used to help employees adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Keeping those employees healthy means better attendance rates.
An employee wellness incentive plan can come in many different forms:
- Rewarding employees for attending no-cost health education seminars
- Waiver of co-pay under a group health plan for preventive care
- Providing employees with free flu shots and required vaccinations
- Reimbursement of costs for participating in a smoking cessation program
- Reward for completing a health risk assessment
- Reimbursing workers for gym memberships
- Offering weight loss programs
- Providing free health coaching
- Offering insurance-premium discounts to those who meet health standards
A study conducted by Harvard University found wellness program returns to be about $3.27 per dollar spent in reduced medical costs and $2.73 per dollar spent in reduced absenteeism costs. Excessive employee absences can reduce productivity, lower morale, and increase rates of job turnover. Keeping your employees happy and healthy just makes ‘cents’!
For more on Employee Recognition, please visit:
– Tips for Successful Business Writing Collaboration –
Even with exceptional team members, collaborative writing cannot be done without good project structure. Collaborative writing is most successful when a clear outline or guide for the project has been established and used a tool of reference for everyone. Once the various tasks of assigning the group leader and outlining team responsibilities has been completed, the group is much more prepared to work and will know what is expected of them.
Before any collaboration process can begin, the purpose of the project must be identified. One of the most common questions a leader can receive is “Why are we doing this?” or “What’s the point?” Once the collaboration team has been assembled, it is best to have some sort of group meeting to discuss the purpose of the project and what their role in this purpose is. Take this time to define the group goal and what specific objectives you hope to accomplish over the course of the project. The goal of the introductory meeting is to ensure that everyone is aware of the purpose of the project and will have the same goals/purposes in mind. It is best to start everyone out on the same page now than trying to reach a consensus after the ball has started rolling.
Formulate Outline and Organizational Format
Once a collaboration project has been introduced and team members are aware of what needs to be done, they can then move on to outlining and organizing the project. Determine the major parts of the project and outline how they are linked together. Although this is not the stage in which to assign tasks and duties, it is alright to introduce team members to the area they may be working on and prepare them to be more informed about it later. Once the format and outline are determined, lay out any standards for aspects such as heading, titles and general format rules. Explain to the group that while it is reasonable to stray from the outline to some degree, the structure is firm and will need to be followed as close as possible so the group can collaborate smoothly and effectively.
When Choosing a Team Leader, Remember…
Before the team can be divided into different task areas and responsibilities, there must be a team leader assigned to manager and oversee the group as a whole. When addressing the group and introducing the team leader, define what this leader’s roles and responsibilities will be. In many cases, the team leader is someone who does not necessarily have more power over any other team member or have the ability to make stand-alone decisions, but they are responsible for organizing the project, facilitate team progress and help coordinate team member activities and tasks.
Common responsibilities of a team leader:
- Keeping the project flowing over time
- Define tasks and duties for other team members
- Enforce deadlines and group communication
- Help mediate conflict and disagreements
Assign Writing Tasks and Associated Duties
One of the final steps of establishing the collaboration group is determining what writing tasks need to be completed and which employees will be assigned to do them. When making the assignments, remember to consider the talents and areas of expertise of each team member as well as any background experience in the current field. It is also not uncommon to assign some of the more complicated or complex assignments to more experienced personnel. For the writing crew, determine who will be content writers and if there will be separate editors to assist them. Each writer may need to be given a different portion of the task if the project is larger. For the staff not directly involved in the writing portion, don’t forget to assign any other various duties needed, such as conducting research, gather information from different sources, distributing/making copies, or producing document samples. When the team knows what part they play in the project ahead of time, they are more likely to realize the value of their contribution and will be more willing to participate.
For more on our Collaborative Business Writing course, please visit:
Take Control of Your Professional Development
Often we wait for our employers, supervisors, or bosses to suggest professional development. If they do not do so, we remain in the same position and do not grow. To be happy at work, take control of your professional development. Set goals for yourself in terms of new skills to master, new roles to try on, or new positions to aspire to. Don’t be passive – be active! Seek out opportunities for new training or education, and enlist your supervisor or manager’s support. Be willing to develop new skills, and look for opportunities to do so. Create a professional development plan for the next year or even five years for yourself, and actively seek ways to implement it.
Seek Frequent Feedback
Seeking frequent feedback is another way to take control of your career happiness. Being aware of what we are doing well and what we can improve helps us as we set professional goals. Draw on your support team to seek out feedback regularly. Rather than relying on yearly or quarterly reviews, or waiting for a supervisor or colleague to come to you with feedback, ask for feedback on the completion of projects, after presentations, or when collaborating with others. Make an agreement with members of your support team that you will regularly ask for their feedback, and that you will listen carefully to what they have to say. When you receive feedback, listen respectfully rather than preparing to respond. Then decide how best to act on feedback, both developmental and positive.
Practice Professional Courage
One of the greatest things you can do for your own professional development and workplace happiness is practice professional courage. Professional courage involves directly and productively addressing conflicts, advocating for yourself and others on your team, and otherwise dealing directly and pro actively with potential problems. It can be difficult to practice professional courage, as it involves taking risks – it can seem easier to let a conflict go unaddressed or to accept the status quo. However, allowing conflict to be unresolved or your needs to go unmet can breed resentment and undermine productivity and happiness. Professional courage helps to promote open communication in the workplace. It also assures that resentments and grudges do not fester. Learning to practice professional courage is a leadership skill which can help prepare you for, and make you a candidate for, more responsibility or promotions. But even if it does not lead to job advancement, practising professional courage marks you out as a leader and someone who wants to promote the healthiest workplace.
For more on our Increasing Your Happiness course, please visit:
Check out this video by CCF President, Master Coach and our friend, Abe Brown: What Makes People Happy
Understand Emotions and How to Manage Them in the Workplace
As previously stated, having emotions is an inherent part of all human beings. Understanding one’s emotions and learning how to use them is the responsibility of each person. Many times, it may feel like the workplace is no place for emotions, whether good or bad. But the truth is, emotions must be utilized!
For example, if you are the manager and your team is about to miss an important deadline, it is up to you to stress how necessary it is for you to meet the deadline. The approach you take is determined by your natural tendencies as well as level of professionalism. One level-headed approach may be to call the team to a meeting and explain the ramifications of not meeting the deadline. This would also be a good time to listen to the team members to find out if there is something out of their control that is preventing them from doing their job.
A less calm and volatile method would be to yell at everyone and tell them to get to work.
Deciding which style is best can be done by weighing the pros and cons of each as well as which would result in the most positive outcome. Do not rely solely on how you feel, but what makes logical sense.
Role of Emotional Intelligence at Work
Emotional Intelligence plays a vital role in the workplace. How one feels about himself, interacts with others, and handles conflict is directly reflected in the quality of work produced. Both social and personal proficiencies are developed as a result of Emotional Intelligence.
- Empathy – Being aware of others’ feelings and exhibiting compassion.
- Intuition – An inner sense of the feelings of others’.
- Political Acumen – Ability to communicate, strong influence and leadership skills, and conflict-resolution.
- Self-Awareness – Understanding one’s own emotions. The ability to asses one’s self as well as display confidence.
- Self-Regulation – Managing one’s emotions. Maintaining trustworthiness and flexibility.
- Motivation – Being optimistic about situations. Having the drive to take initiative and commit until completion.
To disagree constructively means to do so in a positive, productive manner. Its purpose is not to disagree for the sake of disagreeing or getting your point across. It is also not used to be negative or destructive of another’s thoughts. The workplace is a place where disagreeing is a common occurrence. Companies look for the most effective ways to carry out operations and therefore invest in process improvement strategies, which opens the floor for discussion and compromise.
What does constructively disagreeing look like in practice, you may ask. Well, it is acknowledging and confirming someone else’s ideas before presenting your own.
Ted: Because of the nature of their duties, I feel the customer service phone team should arrive 30 minutes before their shift to bring up their systems and test their equipment to make sure it is properly working so they are ready to take the first call as soon as their shift starts.
Michael: I understand your point, Ted and I agree the phone team should arrive early to prepare themselves for the start of their shift. However, I feel 15 minutes is sufficient time for them to get everything in place.
For more information on our Emotional Intelligence course, please visit:
Form a Health and Wellness Team or Committee
When you are creating a companywide program, it is important to include the company! Having input from the employees makes the program more accessible, and is a way for you to make sure it is something that every employee can relate to. A health and wellness team/committee is a group of diverse representatives from within the company that assist in the creation of the health and wellness plan. When you create your committee, you want to make sure that you get a broad network of employees. When selecting the committee, you want to include regular employees and senior management.
Examples of Health and Wellness Committee members may include:
- Human Resources Representatives
- Employee Nurse
- Union Representative or Leader
- Company Legal Representative
- Executive or Senior Management
- Marketing Representative
- Regular Employee Representatives from Various Departments
Once your committee has been determined, you will want to collectively define your goals. Hopefully you have done your research and determined what the needs are in your company. Your committee can review the information collected and determine what type of programs need to be implemented. Having your goals clearly defined will help you create a blueprint of how to build your health and wellness program. Clearly defined goals are important but you also need them to be realistic. A realistic goal is a goal that can be attained in a practical fashion. For example, while most of us would like to set a goal of 100% participation in the wellness program, that is unrealistic. A more realistic goal would be 65% participation.
When setting the goals, here are some things to consider:
- Who is the goal for? Is it for the whole company, a select demographic of employees, or a specific department?
- Is this something the employees would be willing to participate in?
- How can it be implemented? What kind of man power and resources is it going to take?
- When should it be implemented? Is this something that you can start immediately or seasonally?
- What is the preferred action or reaction?
- How can the success rate be measured?
- How often can the success rate be measured?
- Is there an incentive, and if so, what is it?
For more on our Health & Wellness at Work course, please visit:
The G.R.O.W. Model
Introducing the G.R.O.W. Model
Having a consistent and uniform approach to coaching enables you to coach more effectively with strategy and direction. Using a coaching model will also instill confidence in your employee, because they see a methodical approach. When we approach coaching haphazardly, we become disorganized and this creates frustrating coaching sessions.
The GROW model helps you organize your coaching process in a flow that identifies the goal first and ends with putting a plan together.
Here are the details of the GROW model:
- Goal setting: a goal has to be set in order to give direction and purpose to the coaching session. Ambiguous goals are usually never achieved. Setting the goal first shapes your discussion with your employee and sets the tone.
- Reality check: both you and your employee must come to terms on the current state or level of performance or any issues that are causing breakdowns. Getting to the bottom of the problem begins with identifying it and claiming. From there obstacles are better identified.
- Options developed: here you and your employee explore action steps that will help them improve their performance. Usually goals options that are prefabricated by an employee’s manager result in poor buy-in and missed goals. Allow your employee to explore options they develop.
- Wrap it up with a plan: once you nail down an option or two, it is time to strike it down on paper so to speak. If it is not written down, it won’t happen. Creating a well-defined plan is essential in order to know the direction you need to go and to demonstrate success or failure.
GROW is simple yet powerful. Following the GROW process consistently will develop a natural process for you. Coaching should be natural. This puts you and your employee at ease, making the process more valuable and rewarding. Let us unpack the GROW model over the next few modules and see how to incorporate it into our daily work lives.
For more information on our Coaching and Mentoring course, please visit:
Using Business Cards Effectively
Networking is not complete without receiving or giving a business card. The business card is a way for you to follow up on the people you have met. Likewise, it is a way for them to contact you for further meetings.
More than that, your business card is a way to brand yourself. Professional-looking business cards send the message that you’re professional. Adding your company motto or tagline in your business advertises you and what you’re all about.
5 Tips on Using Business Cards Effectively:
- Never be without your business cards! (Make sure there’s always a stack in your office desk, and in your wallet. You’ll never know; even a trip to the grocery story can present an opportunity to network.
- Follow the protocol on hierarchy. Cards should not be given to senior executives that you meet, unless they’ve asked for one.
- Time the presentation of your card. Don’t just hand over your business card at any random moment. Handing a business card in the middle of a discussion can be an interruption, as parties would need to take a moment to give it a look. You also want to make sure that your card is perused at point when the other person can give it his or her full attention. The best moments to hand a card is when you’re asked for one, when you’re asked to repeat your name, or when someone offers to send you something.If the two organizations that you represent are well-known to each other, although you haven’t met your host before, offering your card is probably best left to the end of the meeting. If your host is unfamiliar with your company, offering your card at the beginning of the meeting is good practice.
- Accompany your business card with an explanation of what you can offer them. When you hand another person your card, give a brief “action recommendation.” This can increase the likelihood of them contacting you again. For instance you may say: “I think I can help with your PR concerns, Mr. Johnston. Here is my card.” You may also ask for referrals. Invite the other person to send your contact details to anyone they know who can use your services or products.
- When receiving a business card, show the other person that you value their
card. Look at the business card for a few seconds. Comment about the card. Let them see that you take care in storing their card as well, instead of just jamming it in your pocket.
For more information on our Business Etiquette course, please visit:
Successful Webinar Criteria
People are constantly inundated with sales pitches. When it comes to hosting webinars, you must deliver value. The value that you offer needs to resonate with your customers in order for them to choose you. In order to provide value, you need to understand what motivates your customer. For example, people purchase certain items based on quality and others solely based on price, and these choices vary with each individual.
When you are presenting value to your customer, you need to understand your customers’ needs and wants. Then, you will be able to identify exactly how your product or service addresses the needs and wants of your customers. When you have the answers, you must show how your products or services will be able to benefit your customers.
Knowing Your Target Audience
Knowing how to deliver value requires you to understand your target audience. It is impossible to please everyone, which is why you need to know who your customers are (your target audience). This will require you to conduct some research and gather information. Begin by identifying the age, gender, income level, education level, and location of your customers. Once you have this basic information, you must determine how they interact with the world. What do they read? How do they share information? This will allow you to tailor your webinars to your customer as well as advertise in the right locations. Again, this will take a little work on your part, but it is worth the effort.
Grab and Keep Attention
As we have already stated, it is important that you grab the attention of your audience immediately. It is just as important to keep their attention. After a strong opening, you need to keep the momentum going. Many professional presenters follow the 10-minute rule. This rule is based on the understanding that attention begins to drift after 10 minutes. This requires a simple change of course every 10 minutes, such as switching to a demonstration or slide show.
There are other ways to keep the attention of your audience:
- Use slides in moderation: Slides with everything you say is just as boring talking alone.
- Use animation and images: Make sure that are relevant to the webinar.
- Use demonstrations: Again, make them relevant to your topic.
- Limit information: Provide a basic overview, not an in-depth analysis.
Simple find the methods that work best for you, and space them out to keep your audience interested and motivated.
For more information about our Creating a Great Webinar course, please visit:
Divergent thinking moves away from the traditional, convergent thinking, which is linear and analytical. It is looking for the right answer. Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is nonlinear and spontaneous. Rather than finding a single correct answer, the divergent thinker discovers multiple options for addressing problems. Brainstorming, predicting, and imagination activities are all examples of divergent thinking. It is possible to increase divergent thinking by implementing open-ended questions when addressing problems rather than closed questions. We will discuss open-ended questions in a later module. Moving toward divergent thinking may not be comfortable for analytical thinkers, but practice will soon help creativity develop.
Developing Creativity Courseware
Children have an innate creative ability when they are born, but for some reason adults can lose it along the way. Your participants will move out of the mundane, be more curious, engage, and explore new ideas. Recognize creativity and be ready when it happens.
With our Developing Creativity course your participants will learn how to remove barriers that block or limit their creativity. They will improve their imagination, divergent thinking, and mental flexibility. Participants will learn mind mapping, individual brainstorming, and when to recognize and look for what inspires them to be more creative.
For more on the Developing Creativity training course, please visit: