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How to Improve Soft Skills

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  • 0:03 The Importance of Soft Skills
  • 0:55 Teaching Soft Skills
  • 2:33 Steps to Teaching
  • 4:25 Follow-Up
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allison Tanner
Soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution are incredibly important to the work environment. If you have staff who struggle in this area, learn how you can help your employees improve their soft skills in this lesson.

The Importance of Soft Skills

Imagine you work for a large accounting firm and manage more than 20 staff. If you were to take a look around the office, chances are you would quickly identify the staff who can manage tasks, collaborate as a team, and get along with other team members. These staff have been able to adopt soft skills, or the ability to resolve conflicts, communicate, collaborate, and work in diverse environments.

However, there are some staff who don't have these skills, and it can be really challenging for you and your team to work with them. One employee in particular, Tim, is incredibly difficult to work with. Tim is an excellent accountant, but when he works in teams he gets agitated, takes over, and completes projects on his own. He can't seem to get along with anyone, and he is constantly complaining about something or another. Tim lacks soft skills, but because he is a good employee you don't want to lose him.

Teaching Soft Skills

Many companies may quickly fire staff like Tim. Others might just deal with them and accommodate their working style. However, this strategy can lead to various conflicts in the workplace, and hiring and training new staff is extremely expensive. A great way to help staff, like Tim, is to help them learn soft skills. Imagine that instead of firing staff, or going out of your way to accommodate them, you decide that teaching soft skills, or helping staff learn collaboration, communication, and conflict resolution, is a much better way to go.

Willingness to Coach

In order to help your employees learn soft skills, you must first be willing to teach them. If you are not interested in teaching soft skills to Tim, then any coaching you give might not produce the desired results. Before you push for Tim to learn soft skills, you should determine if you are really willing to coach him.

Willingness to Learn

Just like you need to be willing to teach, Tim needs to be willing to learn. If employees don't have any interest in learning soft skills, you are not going to be able to teach them. You could coach all you want, but your efforts would be in vain. It is a bit trickier to know if someone is willing to learn, than it is to know if you are willing to teach.

In order to determine if someone is willing to learn, you might evaluate this at a review. You could easily bring up to Tim that you have noticed he has trouble working in groups so you had to evaluate him lower on his collaboration review. If Tim opens up that this is a struggle, you can then ask if he would like help learning how to work in a group. If Tim doesn't seem phased, you might ask him if he would be interested in improving his collaboration skills. By finding a way to ask about specific skills, you can determine if someone is willing to learn.

Steps to Teaching

Knowledge of Soft Skills

One of the first steps to teaching soft skills, might be to review what soft skills actually are. There may be books you have read such as How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Books such as these help to give your employee a background on soft skills and knowledge of how to apply them to their everyday lives.

Evaluate Employee Strengths

Once you have started the education process, you might want to evaluate what skills Tim already has. It may even be a good idea to evaluate your entire team in order to find out what skills everyone has and how they can complement one another.

One option for evaluating employees' skills is to have them do a StrengthsQuest quiz. StrengthsQuest is an online assessment tool that helps to identify individual strengths. This can help your employees find out if they are leaders, analytical, or a variety of other quality strengths. Using this type of tool helps to identify the top strengths of the employee you are trying to help and how he can apply them to developing his soft skills in the workplace.

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