I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
If it were up to me, we would update school curriculums to include the art of speaking, the skill of writing and the science of how to engage and connect with people. Organizations and companies would have at least one-half of their training budgets devoted to leadership, networking, building relationships and communication. The result would be less stress, more engaged students and employees, and, most importantly, hard, tangible and positive results.
Why am I such a fan of the soft skills? Well there are a number of reasons; I mean who doesn’t enjoy working and engaging with someone who understands how to hold a two-way conversation, or reading a well-written article, or working for organizations where you understand your role and how you can contribute? But, if I had to keep my answer short and simple, I would say I am a fan because I believe the soft skills are the fastest route to profitability.
In fact, I believe soft skills are the only real competitive advantage that we have in today’s competitive environment. This economy is not down; what it is is changed, radically different, and it is never going back to the way it was.
Globalization, advancements in technology, increased competition – we could all sit around in our underwear for weeks on end and Google until our hearts are content, and have everything we want, need and desire delivered right to our front doors – everything. We can order food, products, services; we can meet new people, date, get married, get divorced; we can do almost anything we want without ever talking to or engaging with another individual, without ever having a conversation. That fact, right there, changes everything – everything. It makes what we sell or offer a commodity, but how we sell or offer it, that is our competitive advantage. And how we offer it – that is all about the soft skills.
If you want to succeed in the trust and value economy, then you need to invest in getting yourself, your team and your entire organization up to date on the soft skills.
So, what are the top “must have soft skills” for the trust and value economy?
Flexibility– How “stretchy” are you? How willing are you to bend to accommodate a customer, a co-worker or the market place. Yes, the hard skills tell us exactly the rules, policies and procedures we need to follow to be successful. And while those serve as a good guide, success in this economy is all about your ability to stretch, bend and change.
Communication – The one who can communicate in a way that ensures understanding, buy-in and then ultimately action, is the person who wins in the trust and value economy. The true master of communication in today’s economy is our GPS guide – the woman or man who helps you find the restaurants, gas stations and addresses we are looking for. Why, because when we screw up, he or she simply recalculates, trys again and again until success is achieved.
Connection – The ability to emotionally engage with other individuals, build bridges and create cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships. Connection in this economy is everything, it is how we establish trust and win permission to take the relationship to the next level, whether that means getting a customer to buy a product or service, or an employee to truly engage with our organization. Lack of ability to connect will severely decrease your chances to win customers and retain talented employees.
Attitude– This economy is tough enough; no one (most of all a consumer with a lot of choices) wants to be around anyone with a negative, defeated or just plain rude attitude. Customers who are willing to do business are looking for companies and individuals that are a pleasure to be around, fun to engage and leave them feeling good about the experience.
Team Player – the more people who succeed in your organization the better off you are – employees and customers alike. You need to be an organization that values, trains and rewards a team player, someone who is collaborative, someone who works to put the success of the whole ahead of the individual win.
Yes, you can win in the trust and value economy, but you have to get in touch with your touchy-feely side. You have to invest in the soft skills, understanding that what you offer in this economy is not nearly as important as how you offer it. And how you offer it has everything to do with how well you and your team are executing on the soft skills.
Meridith Elliott Powell, author of “Winning in the Trust and Value Economy” (2013) is an internationally certified coach, speaker and business development expert. She is founder and owner of MotionFirst, where she helps executives and business owners build cultures that make sales fun, easy and incredibly productive.