Impact Squared: Introducing Soft Skills Development to the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Bite sized nuggets of wisdom, over an adult time frame = education that IMPACTS.
Oft-times, we come to ‘forks’ in the road in our professional lives, whether we are entrepreneurs with a startup or two under our belt(s), a mid sized business owner with more ‘seasoning’, a freelancer/independent contractor, or more than one of these.
One of these forks, as I see it? Putting as much, if not MORE, focus, on soft skills as an investment in ourselves and/or in our staff.
What, one might ask, exactly are ‘soft skills’? A fine question. And, unsurprisingly to this blogger, there are multiple/varied answers. The latter doesn’t change the core conclusions that this post is meant to spotlight; yet, it does lead me to share, from an educational advisor/consultant’s perspective, what they are, and/or should be.
Soft skills (def’n): ‘Learned traits gleaned from most usually, a self-directed education, which, when studied over a time frame of at least a year, become ingrained in the mindset and thinking of a person, impacting his/her actions and habits, and thereby becoming strength based skills.’
Many of these examples may resonate with you: Attitude; conflict resolution; character (integrity x courage); goal setting; social capital (width and depth of relationships of all kinds); adversity quotient, and trust (character x competence).
Back tracing throughout our nation’s rich history of entrepreneurial leadership and development, we find various thought leaders who realized how priceless these skills were, and strived to pay them forward through teaching, speaking, writing, or other mediums of communication. For instance, one of the first/early generation stewards who stepped forward? None other than Napoleon Hill.
His magnum opus, ‘Think and Grow Rich’, was published in 1937. Yet, nearly eighty years later, how many businessmen and businesswomen are applying them day-to-day, for at least a year, in their respective entrepreneurial endeavors?
Another? Dale Carnegie. Just a year prior, in 1936, his landmark book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, included these words: “Even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering, to personality and the ability to lead people.” The 85% reference, in our modern Conceptual Age/gig economy, would translate to soft skills.
So many others could be cited; how about one more? John C. Maxwell. Mr. Maxwell has in many measures, revolutionized our world, through his many soft skill centric gifts; in others, his output numbering in the hundreds, including books, speeches, videos, and other content has been evolutionary, building upon the shoulders of giants such as Hill, Carnegie, Nightingale, Greenleaf, and Rohn.
One of my all time favorite books of his, and a must read, is ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’.
A key takeaway that I heartily encourage the reader to act upon is to review the .pdf which was hyperlinked into the book title, and ask yourself as you read it: How many of the 21 have their roots tied into a soft skill, utilizing my definition, and/or another that you find in your own research?
How can soft skills development be implemented? It is rather straightforward, yet not without the need to exercise humility, hone ability, and, to paraphrase Alvin Toffler in ‘Future Shock’, some ‘unlearning’ of what the majority of us were taught in our schooling years.
First: Educate yourself what soft skills are, both in a historical context and our present-day world.
Second: Understand that soft skills cannot be easily, nor should they be, “credentialized.” Encourage the learning process to be organic, and don’t forget to tie into economic conditions, both within your business (micro) and also on state, national, and global planes (macro). Education need not equal a credential to be recognized as impactful to your staff or to you.
Third: Ensure that your business budget always has a line item for ongoing development. Soft skills need not ‘cost’ that much, yet the ‘price’ of NOT recognizing their inherent value could be very high.
Fourth: Pursue options in the marketplace which deliver soft skills to your office, whether it’s at home, an incubator/center like Innovate New Albany, or your local coffee shop via your smartphone or tablet.
Lastly: Be the steward who willingly pays forward this kind of approach to 21st century entrepreneurship to other owners, creatives, and innovators. Thought leaders and true servants are always in demand, as their supply is most often choked off by hubris (“expert” state v. acting as a mentor), excessive focus on credentials (“you don’t have ‘____’ after your name? You’re not worthy of my time.”), or a lack of time management (“I’m ‘busy’, and cannot invest in you.”)
Thank you and may your business growth be sized in proportion with your understanding of success laws and principles left behind from the giants in the professional development field.
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