Leading Out of Lockdown – Soft Skills for Hard Times

One of the most incredible misnomers in business is the use of the term “soft skills” to describe such issues as goal setting, thinking, sales, communication, and time effectiveness. It is these skills that are the hardest to perform consistently at a high standard, and which are often neglected in times when their effect is most needed… those times when business gets tough or faces uncertainty.

Fear affects their approach, their decisions, and their performance, and in the long term  (nay, even in the short-term) that is what will cripple many businesses. Because it’s a self-perpetuating downward spiral… a self-fulfilling prophesy.

There are now huge opportunities for businesses. For the small businesses, it’s time for the most effective operations to really start to make breakthroughs. As for the BIG BOYS… time to start Thinking again. Thinking like a hungry small business in need of growth. Sad thing is, most have forgotten how. You see, whilst the going has been good, Thinking got relegated. Computers did it!

People even stopped selling. The marketing department ran an ad, and the salespeople took the orders! Customer loyalty and long-term business relationships got relegated to a plastic card. Oh dear! All’s changed. And for those large companies who think they can turn things round by just deciding to call their people “intra-preneurs” (yuk!), you’re missing the point!!

It’s the ‘Soft Skills’ that will make the difference…

  1. Strategic Level “Soft” Skills

I hear a lot of talk about Visions… though interestingly many people are just talking survival.

Time to exercise your character muscle. Time to Prove your confidence, by creating:

  • BIGGER Visions, not smaller
  • more conviction about them, not less
  • higher expectations, not lower
  • more confidence, not less
  • more determination, not less
  • more self-investment, not less
  • resulting in more business opportunities, not fewer

At the moment what is being fostered is a small-thinking, low-belief, low-esteem, low confidence, no opportunity-mindset.  Don’t be suffocated by this. Break out of it.  And the best way to break out is using the “soft skill” of goal setting to create a compelling Vision for you and your team.

I’m astonished at the number of people who tell they are just concentrating on “getting through the next two months”. And there are even more who say they are confident, but when action is required, they shirk away from progressing out of fear.

Let’s bring this to a personal level: how about you prove your confidence, simply by raising your eye line to look long term.  This requires courage… an exercise in character muscles.

  1. Tactical Level “Soft” Skills

This is all about your “approach” to doing business in tough times. Effective businesses, that really think, and harness their limited resources, will thrive, whatever their size. This goes for SME business owners, and for all levels of larger organisations.

We DO need to be “tough” at our core… certain about our visions, our values. And at the same time, flexible/ adaptable in our approach to external changes. Sad thing is, most people and businesses are defaulting to the opposite. They are compromising their values and vision for a quick sale, a quick fix, short-term. And not being flexible or open to the opportunities that the new environment is providing.

Thinking creatively, looking for fresh angles to identify fresh opportunities is essential. How much genuine thinking time are you investing in generating action?

Similarly, optimising resources is a tactical skill that many didn’t have to worry too much about in the “good times”. Yet now… well, it’s essential to maximise your investment of time, energy, money to reduce wastage, and ensure optimum investment to achieve your goals. That doesn’t mean you cut down on them… you make sure they are being invested for a genuine return.

Most businesses tell me their major resource is their people. Great. Now time to get the best from that resource. And that means great people management. Good old supervisory ”soft” skills, professional internal and external coaching skills, to maximise performance. And this is not about providing some occupational counselling service. It’s about dynamic peak performance management.

  1. Operational Level “Soft” Skills

Here’s another area where businesses had, let’s be frank, got a little slack. After all, the going was so good that being super- effective was not something that came under scrutiny. And now, many of our management teams haven’t been in business during hard times before, so aren’t equipped with these “soft” professional effectiveness tools at a habitual level.

When it comes to things like time effectiveness, professional self-organisation, focus and communication, there are huge benefits to getting it right at all times. Even more so in these difficult times, when we want to reduce levels of frustration and wastage -how many times have you sat waiting for a meeting to start, waiting for the one person who always turns up late? Or if you are that person who is disorganised, and often late for meetings, the last thing you need to be doing right now is hacking off your colleagues/ boss/ team/ clients.

“Soft skills” set businesses, and business people, apart from their competition. They attract the market, attract clients and customers of the right type that you want to deal with, and give you a competitive advantage.

Whether you are a “solo-preneur” or head of a large corporation, it’s time these “soft skills” were revitalised and rejuvenated. Next time such skills are described as “soft”, ask why it is that they are the hardest to do well!!

And here’s the really Great News…

The successful people and businesses can now stand above the mediocre who for too long have got away with poor service, poor products, lack of vision, lazy marketing, wastage of endless resources, poor people management, a complete absence of leadership, no quality, and very little character.

Yippee! Rejoice.

The opportunities are endless for those who do have:
Great service, compelling Vision, exciting marketing, creative investment of resources, engaging leadership, high qualities, integrity, values and stacks of character. Because these soft skills are what set you apart.

Those who are worried are those who know they haven’t been true to these things. There’s still time. Just…