I provide talent management (= HR) services to cutting edge organizations, and coach individuals in them on advanced soft skill development and talent management.
I author e-learning programs focused on soft skill development for managers, enterprise leaders, and working professionals.
I write | publish E-Books on people (soft) skill development, talent management (= HR best practices), and organizational leadership.
I lead the investigation of ‘work places unpleasantness’.
Workplace harassment (psychological and sexual)
Work place fraud (financial and based on information technology)
I am fascinated by how people behave at work.
After a few years as a manager, I came to realize that my success as a leader depended on the talent of of the people who worked for me. So, I reshaped by post-graduate education to provide me insight into what I think is the most fascinating of things: the way people behave at work, i.e. the psychology of the work place.
Work place behavior is every bit as complex and intriguing as family / relationship behavior.
We preach about the importance of soft skills, but don’t really provide very effective insight into just how they work at work. The soft skill training we provide to the people who work for us are not systematically evaluated on how they well the do at ‘transferring new soft skills back-to-the-job. Instead, we base much of training on ‘self declared expert’ opinion about what works and what does not work when interacting with others in the work place
Such prescriptive soft skill training programs often appeal to a leader’s personal opinions, rather than being truly effective at increasing productivity in the work place. We don’t acknowledge the actual complex nature of work place people skills. Effective interaction with others requires the progressive development, over time, of a set of complex composite competencies™.
Instead, we have an endless parade of self-labelled Internet experts and business coaches. They may be skilled, but in my view, their skill lies in marketing and gaining Internet followers, rather than in really understanding the complexity of workplace interpersonal behavior.
Effective work place managers and leaders are made, not born.
We simply don’t accept that people need continued support and focused professional development to become skilled inter-personally at work. We want a silver bullet – a one or three day program which magically creates increases interpersonal effectiveness back on-the-job. We don’t acknowledge that managing / leading is a complex, interacting set of soft skills that need to come together over a period of time, often years, to achieve effectiveness.
Increased soft skills lead to increase work place effectiveness and productivity.
Today, I translate my fascination with work place human behavior, and my learning about how people behave at work, into work place focused soft skill programs. I base my work on the combination I have learned from years of experience as a C-Level leader of others, and of the post graduate education that I done in the psychology of the work place. These are not just ideas or opinions. They are the result of constantly working with others, and of carefully researching | observing the impact of coaching and training programs.
Let’s summarize what I have learned …
One: Much of what is labelled leadership training does not produce real ROI back on-the-job.
If you want to improve the leadership abilities of managers and executives, invest in increasing their self-awareness and core soft skills (e.g. the ability to ask questions effectively under conditions of stress and conflict). When I started to do this, I began to lead work place groups in organizations. I liberated the desire of most people to be really good at their jobs. I benefited greatly from their efforts and contribution as a result.
Two: People apply soft skills on-the-job when they value doing so and have the ability to do so.
The way values work to drive behavior is complex. Values are developed through our early socialization and over the course of our lives. If people don’t value being inter-personally effective, they are not likely to take the time and to spend the energy needed to develop people (soft) skills. When I started to champion checking an individual’s motivation before we invested in that person’s soft skill training, two things happened.
First, poor people leaders started to self-select themselves out of the organizations I led, with huge morale increase benefits. Second, individuals who were motivated invariably learned and applied their increased soft skills back-on-the-job, leading to BOTH improved productivity and improved job satisfaction | engagement on the part of their direct reports.
Three: Ability is a combination of 3 kinds of knowing.
Knowing that – knowing facts, concepts, and ideas.
Much of interpersonal skill education and professional development focuses mostly on this kind of factual learning. As a result, it seldom translates to real productivity increase back on-the-job.
Knowing how – be able to do things, using our cognitive and physiological capabilities.
Learning how to do soft skills requires guided practice and feedback, just like the full body learning process it takes to learn new sport skills.
Knowing why – making judgments about when to, and when not to use, our work place technical and interpersonal abilities.
People learn why to do and not to do things only when they personally consider the people they are learning from as credible.
Four: Managerial Capability Starts with Self-Awareness.
Without constantly increasing one’s self-awareness, a person is condemned to endlessly repeating professional development programs without effectively translating new skills into increased effectiveness back on-the-job.
Five: Working with people to develop and to advance their soft skills takes three kinds of expertise.
1. Expertise in the soft skills themselves.
2. Expertise in adult development / instructional design for adults.
3. Expertise in providing feedback and coaching individuals.
Many people who self-label themselves as work place soft skill experts and ‘coaches’ on the Internet do not have this range of skills. So, they become ‘feel good’ supporters of those they coach. This has value, but is not the same thing as effective soft skill development, which leads to independent, increased productivity on the part of the person being coached.
How To Get Actual Payback from Investments in Training
Six: Soft skills are an 80/20 reality.
20% of the skills get you through 80% of the situations at work, where everyone is well-intentioned and pressure is at a day-to-day level. Many people acquire these 20% foundational soft skills:
- as part of their ‘growing up’ socialization,
- or as part of early work experiences,
- or as part of beginning professional development programs.
Seven: Leaders and managers cannot handle their role requirements with just 20% of the soft skills.
Their people management and leadership need mean they need to acquire the other 80% of soft skill. Their roles mean that they are constantly dealing with the exceptional 20% situations – i.e.
- conflict among individuals,
- delivery under pressure,
- decision making under conditions of certainty,
- communication under conditions of stress,
- coaching others who are anxious about their current and future performance, which often requires confronting individuals about their poor level or performance, and the underlying reasons for it,
- dealing with people who performance is not up what is required, even after coaching or training intended to remediate their performance,
- … .
Eight: Manager and leaders need to acquire and to develop the other 80% of soft skills in order to do their jobs.
Unfortunately, most ‘leadership’ development programs talk vaguely or generally about what it means to lead. They do not focus on specific soft skills. They do not help managers develop them in progressive ways, which move them over time to become more and more ‘expert’ in their use of these soft skills.
A particular manager may be lucky, and get mentored / coached by a rare self-aware boss, who is also good at developing people skills. But most manager / leaders are not this lucky. They simply fumble their way through with the 20% foundation level situations with the skills they may have.
I know this well, because I have managed hundreds of manager / leaders over the course of my career.
I only began to get real payback from investing in professional development for managers when I focused on the other 80% of the soft skills.
My whole approach to Next Level Managerial Soft Skills™ development is driven by 1 metric.
Professional development only pays off when there is improvement in the business results delivered by the person being trained, in the short term and the long run. I learned this the hard way, after systematically following up on the millions of my employers’ dollars that I invested in technical and people training programs for the people who worked for me.
My post graduate education in the psychology of the work place taught me their things.
1. It is not real until you see the new skill in effect back-on-the-job.
Seeing which training programs create that outcome requires systematic follow up, which I learned to do as part of my post graduate training in psychological research.
2. No personal motivation = no new skill acquisition on the part of the person being trained.
Verifying that individuals had the appropriate motivation BEFORE they went on a training program was a turning point in getting real ROI on our organizational training investments.
3. Coaching | leading professional development requires more presenting ideas.
Just like in sports, the best business skill coaches may not have been the best players, but they know ‘how to play the game in a full mind-body sense’, which they combine the far better than average coaching ‘adults’ know how.
E-learning can only take you so far.
Advanced soft skill develop requires focused in-the-moment feedback.
As well as knowing that, people need the ability to role-play the use of the new soft skills, and get immediate feedback on the extent to which they are succeeding. Acquirement soft skills is very much like acquiring sport skills.
Why I deliver customized, face-to-face advanced soft skill programs.
These are customized because shaping the required role plays and simulations to take into account the work place of the participants dramatically increases new skill use back-on-the -job.
They are face-to-face, so that we can incorporate the feedback components (personal and video-based) essential to advanced soft skill development.
Doing workplace investigations well takes Next Level Soft Skills™:
I also run an workplace investigation practice. Doing so keeps me in touch with the use of Next Level Soft Skills and with changes in the dynamics of the workplace. We also deliver pragmatic, actionable results to individuals dealing the complex dynamics underling workplace bullying / harassment, workplace sexual harassment, occupational fraud, and personal relationships that lead to organizational conflicts of interest.