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January 3, 2018 | 7 min read
January is the perfect time to implement meaningful changes in your office! And you’re likely wondering just how to do that. Your company probably has a lot going on and your to-do list is multiplying. So while we’re in the resolution mindset, we at Speakizi are turning to an overlooked yet critical topic: soft skills.
In short, there are hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are quantifiable skills, like knowledge of Excel or speaking a second language. Soft skills, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to measure. Some examples of common soft skills are: communication skills, creative problem solving, teamwork and leadership.
Or, put another way-
Well, let’s imagine you have an office full of geniuses. Everyone is brilliant at their job and incredibly productive… but they lack interpersonal skills.
Now imagine that, one day, these workers encounter a problem and must work together to solve it. Without adequate soft skills, they just. can’t. collaborate. Although everyone has adequate knowledge, they can’t get their knowledge across. And so the problem never gets properly solved.
In other words, hard skills are basically useless without soft skills. Good soft skills ENABLE hard skills to come through.
If you want even more proof that you should turn your attention to these skills, take a glance at Pets At Home, a pet supplies retailer. Pets At Home trained their employees in relevant soft skills and vastly improved employee retention. As Forbes writes,
“Their work resulted in them being voted №1 in the Sunday Times Top Big Companies To Work For in 2013…Central to their achievement has been three elements: 1. Recruit the right people; 2. Train them and give them the right tools and skills they need to do their jobs well; and 3. Reward and recognise them.”
This business saw that the right knowledge makes a great worker, but social skills make a great coworker (and employee).
Unfortunately, because soft skills are, well, fuzzy, they are often ignored or feared. Don’t fall into this trap!
By now you’re thinking:
The good news is: soft skills can be learned. And it’s actually surprisingly easy!
Let’s go by the core four: communication, problem solving, teamwork, and leadership.
We all communicate every day, via a variety of media — speech, body language, video, recordings, texts, emails… but just because we all communicate doesn’t mean we’re any good at it.
There is NO ONE on earth who’s never experienced a miscommunication!
Bring in a speaker to help you improv(e) your communication!
Jen Brown runs an improv workshop designed to get coworkers to explore new avenues of communication. Your office team will learn to listen, contribute, and commit to one another as they Zip-Zap-Zop their way through the day.
You’ll be surprised at how much more easily your team gets along after just one session!
In the Speakizi office, two of our favorite problem-solving exercises are the Feedback Board and the Dumb Idea Board.
Everyone in the office anonymously writes a personal work goal on a prominently displayed board. We tend to do 3-month (quarterly) goals, but you can do monthly or even 6-month goals. Employees will contribute freely to solve one another’s problems.
Then, the rest of the office, also anonymously, suggests ways to achieve each goal. This means that each person both 1) gets to watch their problem get solved in ways they personally wouldn’t expect, and 2) gets to practice creatively solving others’ problems.
Besides improving problem-solving skills, this also fosters good will between co-workers, who will feel supported by their peers.
Dumb Idea Board
The goal here is for employees to compete to come up with the dumbest solution to a problem.
Set up a “Dumb Idea” board in the main area. Each week, write down a different problem. Each week include either a ridiculous or relevant issue; for instance, the first week’s problem could be “How can Jack the Giant find shoes big enough for his feet?” while the next week the problem could be, “How do we streamline office meetings?”
During the week employees will come up with all sorts of ridiculous, clever, and stupid ideas. On Friday, employees can mark their vote for the “dumbest idea,” which will be displayed proudly! And you, as the manager, will have a pool of surprisingly not-so-dumb ideas to draw from in the future.
Teamwork will make your office stronger than you imagined possible! On the other hand, team dysfunction will eat your company from the inside out. So how can we get your group of employees to collaborate?
First of all, get to know your team.
The best managers simply chat with their employees. Asking about so-and-so’s sister or what’s-his-name’s after-work chess club might seem like idle small talk, but it’s anything but small. You’ll get to know your co-workers’ talents, you’ll collect valuable feedback, and you’ll find yourself becoming a mentor rather than a manager.
Second, get them to know each other! Heres a great game to get started:
The Exquisite Corpse
Each person will continue the drawing of the previous person, without seeing what was drawn before.
Have your team sit around one table. Give each person a blank sheet of paper and instruct them to fold it twice width-wise, so that it’s divided into 4 equal sections. (Head, upper torso, waist, legs)
The goal is to draw a person, from the head down. So the first person will start drawing a head in the top section. They’ll extend the drawing ever so slightly into the next section. They’ll fold over what they’ve drawn, then pass the paper on to the next person. The next person will have to continue the figure seeing only a very few lines to guide them.
This will go on until a full person is drawn. Who knows, they might have two heads, or three sets of arms. Go crazy! After the fourth and final person is finished drawing, unfold the whole sheet of paper to reveal what you’ve created together.
Take an active role in your company’s success by rallying your team! It’s important to remember that leaders aren’t born — they’re created.
You and your team can learn certain skills which will increase each person’s confidence and leadership skills. And leadership skills aren’t just for managers. Every employee needs to know how to advocate for themselves, pitch ideas to coworkers, bring people together, and convince others.
Let Michelle Herrera Mulligan transform your coworkers into leaders.
Do you want to know how to get your employees to partner with you and get their personal spark back? What about inspiring them to perform? Herrera Mulligan, who has co-founded two magazines and has helped architect at least 10 media platform startups will teach your team her unique partnership-based approach to leadership training. Believe us, your whole office will feel jazzed and ready to tackle new initiatives!
Have fun in 2018! Let us know how improving your soft skills has affected your office.