My coaching practice focuses on helping individuals, usually senior and emerging leaders in organizations, to become more effective leaders. In most cases this centres on the so-called Soft Skills, which are those skills required to “help people work and socialize well with others.” In 2015 I wrote a 26-part series on Soft Skills, which has become the backbone of my practice. The more I work with individuals in a variety of organizations, the more I recognize this common theme. Whenever I ask people about inter-personal communications in the workplace, I get that “look” that says “You’re not kidding!”
Recently I’ve turned my attention specifically to the hi-tech industry, for a couple of reasons. The first is that the community I live in, which has a population of less than 150,000, has over 600 hi-tech companies. They employ over 7600 people (52 per cent of those workers are below the age of 35) and their economic impact has outstripped the traditional high revenue generators of tourism and wineries. The second is the number of articles and news coverage I have encountered recently that address the need for Soft Skills in the tech sector. This not necessarily something new, but the “noise” coming from the sector about this challenge is getting louder as it is increasingly recognized as a serious issue.
A paper presented at the 18th Conference on Software Engineering Education & Training (CSEET’05), 2005 by Bleek, W.-G; Lilienthal, C; Schmolitzky, titled “Software Development Engineer in Microsoft: A subjective view of soft skills required” concluded that “a successful engineer in Microsoft needs to have a lot of important soft skills. Without them the engineer will not be able to fulfil his role in the company”. This paper noted Change Management, Self-Development, and Composure: Stress management, Problem Solving Skills, Drive for Results, Communication Skills and Interpersonal Skills as key soft skills Microsoft requires in the engineers. An additional study concludes that: “it is clear that today’s MBA graduates have a propensity to fail because they hardly display or communicate their employability skills. It is important that the educational institutions design their curricula with a particular focus on enhancing graduates’ soft skills and employability. Moreover, it is important to transform the educational environment to accelerate soft skills formation among the graduates”. (Why Soft Skills Matter Murti, Ashutosh Bishnu. IUP Journal of Soft Skills). Although this study focused on MBA students, I believe it is safe to say its conclusions would also apply to graduates of hi-tech programs.
Until educational institutions start paying attention to and providing soft skills training, it is left to outside resources such as training companies, consultants and coaches to fill the void. I’m not complaining — this is where I find many opportunities! In my work I see how improving individuals’ self-awareness of their gaps in Soft Skills, leads to growth and to more well-rounded workers and leaders, which in turn creates better work environments and higher productivity. And yes, you can measure that! Ask me if you want to know how.
John Whitehead, coach’s individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
*******Are you wondering if having a Leadership/Personal Development Coach is right for you? Contact John for a complimentary, exploratory coaching session at firstname.lastname@example.org********
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