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What happens when you identify a team member who’s lacking in core soft skills?

By James Larter

Posted 06/06/2019

Identifying individuals with essential ‘soft skills’, such as problem solving, communication, consultation and influencing skills, has formed a fundamental element of recruitment for many a year, but there’s no guarantee that those successful at interview will actually deliver on their potential, once in the work place.

So what happens when employees fall short of the mark? When it becomes clear that they either struggle in managing others, co-ordinating teams or generally contend regularly with friction in their personal lives or with other colleagues?

Two obvious choices spring to mind – you can accept that they are a poor fit and aim to steer them down an alternative career path or you can simply put up and shut up.

But what about the third route, personal development?                                                    

Don’t forget that the option to take positive steps to develop the skills they are lacking, is also on the table.

Unlike personal IQ, which is often thought to be static, research over the last 30 years has explored the ability for individuals to develop and improve their emotional intelligence, and therefore improve the overarching influence on their soft skills.

One thing is clear, developing effective soft skills cannot be learned from a book, app or online module, you need to take individuals on a journey of change.

Daniel White, Organisational Development Consultant, describes a 6 stage process:

  1. Willingness to change – you can’t force people to change, they need to be on-board and want to.
  2. Education – build in some best practice reading such as Marshall Goldsmith’s ‘What got you here, won’t get you there.’
  3. Evaluation – Individuals need to be able to work out where their strengths and areas for improvement sit against best practice, whether through self-assessment or input from others.
  4. Self-reflection – having identified personal strengths, weaknesses and behaviour, it’s crucial for individuals to reflect and understand their instinctive behaviours and importantly, how others react to them.
  5. Goal setting – for an individual to adjust their behaviours, they need a clear vision of what they are working towards, defined SMART objectives which can be shared with others, to monitor progress.
  6. PRACTICE – for behaviours to become second nature, they need to be practised over a long period of time; only by doing and trying can an individual embed the change and learn how to benefit from it.

LIVE Learning puts practice at the heart of training and development, making sure that individuals have the opportunity to gain confidence by ‘having a go’, and receiving personal, constructive feedback, so that they can keep ‘having a go’ until they get it right!

I personally believe that the feedback, so often received from participants, truly endorses its effectiveness:

University Student Participant: Friday’s workshop was the best we’ve had all year! Left feeling much more confident about my communication skills. The interview skills were particularly beneficial.

Graduate Trainee International Bank: The coach and my fellows helped me to discover many things I need to correct and improve, which is something I wouldn’t discover myself.

Member of Teaching Staff: The small group workshops were incredibly challenging – to role play in front of peers, but actually the most beneficial.

Senior Manager Insurance: The key point for me is that this is an opportunity for people either to rehearse/practise a difficult conversation that they may need to have with a member of staff, alternatively it is an opportunity to revisit a situation that has occurred in the past and which may not have gone as smoothly as the individual would have liked and to remedy or address where it went wrong.

What will your colleagues say?

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