Published by Praise Leadership ™

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Soft Skills Training... Does the Workplace need it?
By Marti Miller, Leadership Skill Trainer 2001-200

Upon occasion, I'm asked to define the kind of training I provide in the marketplace. Initially, I was unsure how to define what I did and how I did it. But now, the corporate marketplace has done it for me…

According to them, I am a soft skills trainer. The Dallas Morning News recently defined soft skills this way, “the willingness to do one's job harmoniously.” I'll buy that, but in wanting to offer a more developed and insightful definition based upon more than 20 years of soft skills training experience, I'd say that soft skills, such as the ability to work with people at any level in a positive manner that leads to more productivity, is now one of the more recognized measures of what most businesses and corporations would consider a successful career.

Soft skills are not the same thing as hard skills. The same news source defined hard skills as, “ the ability to do the job.” You know those skills when you see them. They are easily measured in terms of proficiency and technique stemming from one's educational background and expertise, training and knowledge base, and the ability to fully understand and manifest that same set of skills into job performance and mastery .

Soft skills are difficult to put into words, but you'll know them when you see them, too.

Positive attitudes, the ability to work well under pressure, an ability to effectively move change in a positive direction...all of these and more, are seen as the behaviors and characteristics one would want to exhibit when engaged in work. Some are naturally acquired via personality traits, temperament and genetics, however, many of these soft skills are learned behaviors which require training and focused application.

A well-read book titled,All I really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten ”, by Robert Fulghum, captures the essence of soft skills, by referring to that set of repeatable and learned behaviors we were taught as children. The skills of learning; how to be nice, how to play together, when and where to use our manners, the development of social graces outside the sandbox, how to resolve conflict, how to express appreciation by learning to say please and thank you, developing attitudes of friendliness and optimism, learning how to use our language in a way that persuades others... are skills, that when learned well at a young age, can lead people to grow up better prepared for the world that awaits them.

Even those kids that didn't grow up learning to respect the rights of others, or how to manage conflict outside of pushing and shoving to get what they want, can still benefit as adults from soft skills training. Negative patterns can be relearned and replaced with positive ones, contrary to the popular belief that “ we are what we are”, as we age and mature. Developing a conscious effort to improve and achieve the attitudes and behaviors considered successful attributes in the workplace is a matter of choice.

That's where what I do comes in handy. My job is to help you understand who you really are as a person, and help you to define and refine those competencies called soft skills, that will assist you in achieving all that life has to offer. My job allows me the freedom to explore personal dynamics of individuals, and then highlight those same dynamics in a group setting. Group settings are similar to the workplace, where those same personal dynamics are ranked according to ideals. Most often, the person who is most sought after for any kind of job, “the ideal candidate” , is the person who is strong in both sets of skills, soft and hard.

So who needs soft skills training? This is the first choice someone must make when seeking the services I offer. Some of the skills and core competencies my training entails are:

  • Effective Listening
  • Learning to identify leadership styles and traits
  • Developing the “spirituality of leadership” (Not religious affiliation or faith-based interpretation). Defining it's “essence”, as it personally applies to individualized styles
  • Communicating the message of leadership
  • Identifying Winning Attitudes
  • Developing an attitude of service-mindedness
  • Learning how to be decisive in times of stress; learning to be more flexible
  • Defining ways to manage stress and create well-being
  • Defining core values and articulating your values
  • Developing honesty, kindness, integrity and ethical behavior in all that you do
  • Developing empathy and compassion for others
  • Identifying positive attitude traits and developing the quality of optimism
  • Learning the skill of educating, motivating and activating people's innate leadership abilities
  • Identifying legacies of leadership, defining your dreams
  • Learning to apply the lessons learned through failure as a means to grow personally and help others
  • Learning the skill of being authentic
  • Learning to celebrate our victories and failures through storytelling
  • Inter-personal skills of relating to others regarding socio-economic understanding, diversity issues and training, community initiatives
  • Public speaking and overcoming the fear of it.
  • Motivating yourself toward personal change
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem solving
  • Trust. What it is. What it isn't. Why it's key to success in the workplace, at home and in every relationship
  • Encouraging the heart in the workplace
  • Learning to express “joy on the job!”
  • Developing “Praise leadership”, by developing the skills of appreciation and caring, lifting people up and offering them hope
  • Developing an understanding of servant-leadership, transformational leadership, and developing the skills to apply it within the framework of personal “giftedness” and investment of talents and abilities.
  • Defining quality of life and learning to “Lead where we live!”

Personally speaking, I think the workplace needs what I have to offer. I'm betting my future career on the fact that the basic tenets of successful living that have been around for hundreds of years, will still be around fifty years from now. All the technological advancements of the current generation will be replaced by that time, and there will be newer, bigger and better innovations to meet the challenges of the workplace. I'm certain that there will be one thing that remains the same... the ability to get along with others. It's the same message that was so simply taught by my first soft-skills trainers, otherwise known as my parents;

  • Treat everyone you meet as if they were a King. Don't belittle them.
  • Look for something to like in everyone.
  • If in doubt, don't.
  • Never go to bed mad.
  • Help others. Help them like you'd want to be helped
  • Love first. Love best. Love most.
  • Get your priorities straight. Know what you value, become what you value
  • Speak the truth
  • Always remember to Tell Something Good!
  • Respect Responsibility and Leadership!
  • If you've got character nothing else matters. If you don't have character, nothing else matters.
  • Don't judge others.
  • Love People Anyway. Love is a Choice.
  • Associate with quality people. Like attracts like.
  • Don't do anything that wouldn't make your mama proud.
  • Duty. Honor. Country
  • You have our good name. You take it with you wherever you go. Remember that.
  • Remember who you are , whose you are ... and that you were made for great things!
  • When it's all said and done, the only thing that matters is...
    “Did you love someone?”

Hope you'll think a little differently about soft skills training the next time you hear of it. Hopefully, you'll think of me. Let me know how I can be of service!

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