The secret weapon to career success is not talent or work ethic, it’s not even network or connections or education. People skills, or as is most popularly termed now, soft-skills in our work and lives are the supportive behaviours, that act almost like a conduit through which our talent, expertise, knowledge and ability can flow and develop. We regularly come across extreme examples of people, who are highly results-driven individuals, high-achievers, incredibly ambitious, achieving amazing results for their organisations, but are either not getting promoted, are not very well liked or are having enough influence, in some occasions even getting fired or demoted, due to their lack of basic people-skills and lack of understanding the value they have to their own success.

Working hard and being talented is not enough to succeed

We recently got a call from a very ambitious, results-driven, executive headhunter who had been fired for the sixth time in 6 years, the same pattern repeating again and again in her early career. From our initial conversation, I could hear this woman was clearly talented, intelligent, ambitious and gave everything to what she was doing and achieving great results for whichever company she worked for. But, as she said herself, she tended to ‘rub her colleagues up the wrong way’, I suspected this was an understatement based on other details and so within her first 8-9 months in a role, she would have turned her workplace and team against her. Her lack of value in the people around her, was palpable and overshadowing her fantastic work, talent.

This of course, is a very extreme example, but it is a very good one. For this woman, helping her understand the value in communicating effectively, using diplomacy, developing strategic relationships and alliances, knowing how to work with others and gain other’s respect and influence, would have ensured her own increased satisfaction at work, but also, allowed her to succeed in her career.

Missed connections

The starting point here is not in actually developing soft-skills – it is understanding the value of working well with others to your own success!  Missing this connection, is the greatest career error of all!

I tend to see a lot of this in many high-achievers and high-performers, but what is always clear, is the insatiable need for ever more success derived from the individuals metaphorical poverty in human interaction and work relationships. In Transactional Analysis, quality human interaction is termed as ‘strokes’, it’s essentially recognition of some sort or another, we all need some daily! No man is an island, in fact, we are physiologically designed to need quality interaction with others, it literally feeds our nervous system. A very interesting fact I often think of, is how key touch is to the development of baby’s spines. In Chernobyl, many children were left neglected in overcrowded orphanages and would grow warped and disabled, as a result of not having been touched for months and years on end. Similarly with the elderly, touch is incredibly important, as my theory is elderly people’s spines shrink, so often have their physical relationships.

Relationship-driven or not – soft-skills are worth investing in

We’re not all naturally relationship-driven people and that’s okay. I’m not, but with maturity and life learning and through the amazing role of working as a Coach for so many high-performance clients, I have learnt that life and work is all about people, it’s all about relationships. Investing more in myself in this area, is hugely rewarding, sometimes scary and unknown, but necessary and ultimately, very much how I would like to be and so I need to develop.

Helpful Questions

For me, this type of work is mostly around mindset, ask yourself questions like:

• How would I like to be at work, from a  people perspective?
• How would you benefit from investing more in the relationships and others around you?
• How would your day be better, how would your progress benefit, how would your life be better if you invested more and had more quality relationships at work and professionally?
• If you were completely honest with yourself, what do you know you’re not doing in this way to better yourself?
• What simple things could you do today, this week, to make a start? Give yourself a daily goal of just one way you can work on this.

Some of this is of course, all about personal branding, we offer dedicated personal branding coaching sessions for executives, business owners and professionals at any stage of their career, for more on that go here

The long game

This isn’t an instant gratifying process, it’s a longer game. If people are used to you being one way, it’s going to take a little work to turn that round, but you can start with strangers and work your way back, once your comfortable with your new behaviours. This is definitely a marathon, not a race, but the rewards are great and if you’re already doing something you’re great at and enjoy, this will only make your work and career better and more enjoyable for you and everyone around you.

One of the best ways I have helped myself in this area is through daily meditation, I’ve used simple breathing meditations for 15 – 20 minutes a day and have now graduated to Transcendental Meditation, which is absolutely amazing for this, it literally blurs the barriers between you and others.

Feel free to get in touch with us to understand how career coaching could help you develop your soft-skills or better define and communicate your personal brand.

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