Picture this… it is 2041, twenty years from now, and students around the globe are reading about how historians describe the events of January 6, 2021 on Capitol Hill. Consider for a moment what you have said to your children, family members, friends and colleagues. What words have you used to describe the scene? During an interview with Christopher Booker on the PBS Newshour, Mr. Booker discussed the language used to describe the events. Was it an insurrection? A coup? A riot? Domestic terrorism? Or just a peaceful protest? What words are being used by leaders we respect?
I’m reminded of listening to a parent talking with a child who was crying uncontrollably. The Mom said, “Use your words.” Words are important and can incite and encourage employees to act. Leaders, who remain silent and use no words, still send messages. In the last six months, with racial injustice, political battling, shelter-at-home mandates and long food and vaccine lines, we look to leaders who use their words. Words help us heal, build bridges, reconcile differences, and set the stage for listening.
Listening and saying the “right” thing is hard, especially when there are so many diverse points of view. It is much easier to focus on the technical work, yet today more than ever, leaders must develop their soft-skill toolkit and use their words to model GOOD behavior.
Leader skills gaps are widest around soft skills, and the gap is increasing as we fail to address uncomfortable and difficult issues. According to Chief Learning Officer, only 1 in 4 organizations reports satisfaction with offering soft skills training. Yet, over 75% of organizations have identified soft skills as a critical priority this year—and this was before the events of last week.
Soft skills are hard to learn and implement in the workplace. In fact, employers are less likely to invest in soft skills training, yet research shows that soft skill mastery can account for 75-80% of career success. When we talk about soft skills, we’re talking about communication habits that have been developed over a lifetime. These habits don’t change with one course or even with strong desire. Leaders need practice and time to learn new habits in listening, coaching, facilitating conversations, peer-to-peer dialogue, self-management, emotional intelligence, etc. In fact, it takes at least 6 months to a year of concerted effort to improve and change soft skills.
As the industry leader in listening tools, assessments, books and articles, please go to our website to access our free blogs, white papers and resources to reinforce and strengthen your soft skills. We encourage you to be courageous and USE YOUR WORDS—mindfully.
Kittie Watson, Ph.D.
President & Founder