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Can Soft Skills Be Taught in a Classroom?

More and more companies are measuring soft skills in their work force and evaluating their impact on performance. Only recently do we have evidence that soft skills may be age- and occupation-related.  This is based on four different studies.  The first two studies were conducted in the fall of 2008.  Nine hundred college freshmen from two Midwest universities were asked to respond to an assessment that measures 23 specific soft skills.  The results from both groups (business and engineering majors) indicated that, as a group, they have almost no mastery in these 23 soft skills. In fact, their lowest scores were in decision making.

In the spring of 2009, a small group of seniors were given the same survey.  The results showed only a slight improvement.

Curriculum or Practice?

Looking at the numbers, it is becoming more and more apparent that certain soft skills cannot be taught in the classroom.  To mention a few:

Interpersonal Skills
Personal Effectiveness
Futuristic Thinking
Self-Management
Diplomacy
Goal Orientation
Flexibility

To support this hypothesis, a group of employed adults (1632) were given the same assessments. Specifically, the research was looking for correlations among people who are passionate about knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Many Ph.D.s fall into this category.  The evidence was very clear on all 23 soft skills:  There were no correlations strong enough to predict a person will actually develop soft skills based on curriculum knowledge.  The assessment used did not measure their knowledge of the skills; it measured their mastery of the skills and the use of these skills in their work.  In other words, Do they walk their talk?

The bookstores are full of self-help books that would lead you to think that buying a book can lead to developing and mastering certain soft skills.  Merely reading a book on how to persuade others will not make you a successful sales person.

So what are we to do? The knowledge needs to be incorporated into activities, experiences and games.  Practicing what you preach is the most promising method of developing soft skills.

First, make a comment if you have some ideas to make this work. Second, contact us if you want to learn about how you rank with your personal soft skills. Our phone number is 901-757-4434.

Judge Things and People on Content rather than Looks

This week I have had several conversations regarding the old cliche:

“Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover.”

And, it appears that this simple phrase is more important than ever. Let me give you a few examples from my recent conversations with people.

DISC tells You the “How” People Do Things

So, you want to know “how” a person communicates, talks, walks, listens, deals with people, handles processes and rules, makes decisions, goes after goals and problems? Then you need to look at a DISC assessment to answer the question.

DISC assessments answer these questions and more. The tool tells you if a person is feeling minor or major stress. It can tell you when a person is trying to be “all things to all people” and again feeling unusual stress in the process.

If you are looking for a sample of a DISC report and what it covers, go to our assessment site (which explains all the assessments we offer and what they will do for you) and download a sample “behavioral” report. They come in different formats – one for executives, managers & staff, sales, customer service, team building and even time management.

Someone asked me, “Is the DISC report a personality test?” My answer was “no.” The reason for this answer is the DISC reports have no psychology involved in the assessment. Only behavior is recorded or the behavioral tendencies of an individual. Yet, behavior is the most dominant factor since it is what everyone sees or hears. Behavioral traits are on display for everyone to see and “judge.”

I prefer the power and insight of the DISC reports because it is easily validated by the person who takes the assessment and everyone who interacts with this person. However, one major issues comes up between people. When people or staff are unaware of the types of behavioral style, they tend to judge others based upon their “own style preferences.” This can create natural conflict and misunderstanding of actions or intent.

85% of conflict in organizations can be linked to different behavioral style. This has been our experience working in the corporate arena.

People need to understand the power of behavioral style and how it influences our actions and our communication effectiveness with others. Our number one workshop is based upon helping people understand how behavioral tendencies influence our actions and results. Check out our number one workshop: Effective Communication for Results.

If you are interested in this assessment and the impact it provides an organization, please contact me at 901-757-4434. We can discuss how it can help you and your organization or team. Call now and get more effectiveness and productivity in your group, team or organization.

T.E.A.M.S. Uncovers What Makes Your Teams Successful or Not

Ran across another Dysfunctional Team last week and since books have been written about this topic, I thought you might want to know about how to uncover just what makes a team great, poor or average. The interesting thing about this process is when you ask the team using an assessment or interviews, they will tell you what’s going on, what’s causing any issues and why they are doing well.

Team members know the answers to these questions, managers and leaders just need to take the time to ask them for the facts. They are ready, willing and wanting to share with everyone the details of the team performance.

While there are several methods to uncover information about any team, department, division, group or in the case of a small company – the whole company. So what does this assessment called T.E.A.M.S. measure?

What Role does Accountability Have in Your Life?

What role does accountability have in your life? This is an important question to ponder and reflect upon. Accountability is has a major role in your success and personal self-esteem. Yet, it seems to be the most misunderstood term for most people.

So, what is accountability and particularly personal accountability?

What is a Personal Strength?

In the landmark book by Buckingham entitled “First Break All the Rules” statements were made about how the best managers utilized the natural strengths of their direct reports. There were two additional points contained in the book and verified through experience. People are hard wired with certain traits that are impossible to change in the long term. And, you must know what the natural strengths of each individual on a team.

Personal Strengths are the things that an individual does with passion and shows up everyday wanting to use them in everyday life. They are the traits that make each individual unique and like others at the same time. Now if that seems a little confusing, image how difficult it is for managers with no people managing skills. The interesting thing about this scenario is that some of these traits are “hardwired” in the person’s brain and is a preferred method of operating. Other traits are learned and will be more subjective or changeable with training or knowledge.

Managers need to understand all the possible combination of hardwired traits so they can assign tasks and projects based upon the natural abilities or traits of each individual. Too often, a person is asked to do daily tasks that are the opposite of their natural strengths which leads to major issues in the long run.

First, the manager may have expectations that a task should be done a certain way based upon “certain hard wired traits.” When the job is not done using the preferred methods, then the direct report is considered to be at fault and gets a low job performance review.

Second, the individual that is mismatched regarding their natural strengths and a task or job will become frustrated and usually loses their personal motivation. Then their confidence goes down and they become more demotivated. The reason for this downward cycle is the lack of accomplishment or high performance possibilities. The individual wants to perform well and therefore feel good about themselves – yet the job mismatch with their personal strengths creates more issues.

Finally, human nature being present in all situations, the individual begins to look around for a new job or assignment. The higher the self-confidence the more they will actively engage in seeking new situations or employment. The lower self-confident individuals will hang in until the manager gets so frustrated that the manager takes action dehiring the individual.

Learn what your natural strengths are using assessments. InnerActive Consulting Group offers a complete personal assessment that uncovers your natural strengths and weaknesses. You can be debriefed on the best practices for your strengths – learning how to manage others, select qualified high performers for open positions and how to motivate each individual within your team for high performance. Contact us at 901-757-4434 for more information or a demonstration of how this process will work for you.

How do You Select Members of a Team?

Many will agree that people are the most important asset of an organization. More importantly, however, is how well those people work together to accomplish a common goal.  Whether a company has
thousands of people working in various locations worldwide or just a handful working in one small office, teamwork is vital to success.  So, how can you ensure that your teams are performing at their fullest
potential?  How do people contribute to the team differently?  Have you built effective teams?

To begin answering these questions, you must learn how to really understand each member of the team to
identify their work style and how it compares to others in the group.   You also need to look at the inherent
strengths that each person brings to the table.  Not their expertise or their background, but those things they seem to be good at just because that is who they are.

Once you understand the team members, you can not only build a team with the most effective combination
of strengths, but you can also learn how to leverage each individual’s strengths for a dynamic team that
works at its highest potential.  Only then will teams reach goals that have been unattained by individuals,
work at levels of productivity no single person can achieve or impact the bottom line more effectively as a
group.  In fact, maybe we should revisit the assets of an organization.  Perhaps TEAMS are more important
than people on their own?

A Senior Vice President for a Technology Company discovered the importance of using assessments to assist in selecting a diverse yet functional group to lead a very important company project. His first attempt had been a failure because he selected a team consisting of passive and non results oriented individuals. His second Team consisted of a balance of results oriented, active, detailed, persistant, and influential individuals that produced the project in record time, within budget and a quality product ( as described by their customers.).

To learn more about using assessments in selected or evaluating Team Effectiveness, call me at 901-757-4434. We have been implementing assessments within team for over eighteen years with outstanding results for our clients.

DISC tells us about Team Effectiveness

The key to understanding the makeup of your team and each member’s unique strength is a common format for identifying and understanding each person’s work habits, strengths and communication preferences. Using this information allows for a clear understanding of who is capable of delivering upon the expectations of the team.

There are many ways you can classify people through observation and identify what “type” of person they
are.  One of the most common theories addressing styles of communicating is the theory of DISC.  Derived
from the early work of William M. Marston, the theory has since been applied to the world of business and
used in a number of different ways to better understand, appreciate work with and manage people.

In team building, utilizing the theory of DISC helps team members truly understand why everyone is
different, what each individual’s strengths are, and how each person contributes to the team.  Remember,
communication is more than what someone says.  In fact, communication is more about what people do, or
how they act. DISC considers all aspects of communication, from the words we use to how body language
affects communication.  By providing a common language with which to speak about our differences, DISC
allows us to recognize other “types” of people, understand them better and leverage their strengths.  With
DISC, the team can be more cohesive, more productive and more efficient.

DISC also allows us to look at team dynamics in a whole new light, making sure that a well-rounded group
provides all the strengths needed for success, and each member is in a role that suits them best.  Which
person is best to lead?  Who should handle the details?  What is the best combination for small work groups
within the team?

With DISC, it is easy to identify team dynamics to begin strengthening your company’s biggest asset.  Even
if you have a team of star performers, they are only reaching half of their potential if they don’t work well
together.  Imagine the possibilities if everyone came together to work effectively as a team.

Contact us about how to implement DISC within your organization. Call us at 901-757-4434.

How to Uncover Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Most people cannot openly tell you what their natural strengths and weaknesses are regarding their personal performance. Sure they have some thoughts about themselves based upon certain assumptions and concepts – but do they truly know for certain?

Enter assessments! Good assessments can put objectivity into knowing what makes a person tick. Assessments can uncover traits about a person like how they communicate, what personal preferences they have, what motivates them, what influences decisions and choices, how much of their potential are they using, and do they have balance for improved decision making?

Assessments can answer all these questions and give more valuable insight into your preferences for life. When a person understands the natural traits they possess – they can then make choices leading to more success in their lives. The unfortunate truth is many individuals have no clue regarding their natural strengths and weaknesses. Then they take jobs whereby they are attempting to be successful – USING THEIR WEAKNESSES! This is the major reason for poor performance, burn out and depression.

Using several key assessments can undercover the natural strengths and weaknesses of an individual. We refer to these as the “how, why, will and can” a person perform in a certain position. This insight has opened the eyes of individuals and their managers as to what was wrong and could it be repaired? Insight is the term I prefer to use in describing the benefits of personal assessments. If a person is lacking this insight into what makes them go everyday, then how will they accurately make decisions and choices to improve their results and performance. Chance or Certainty? Which would you want to use everyday?

If you would like to discuss the value and how-to’s of using assessments both for your organization or for youself, just pick up the phone and call us at 901-757-4434. We have been assisting our clients for 20 years in understanding how to use assessments and the advantages gained using assessments for insights.

Objectivity in a Subjective World

In this subjective world where everyone has an opinion or position, how do you capture the consensus of the group? Most organizations use the subjective methods of “gut feel” or the SWAG method of determining what is going in within the organization. However, I believe there is another way that is more meaningful. Use assessments to bring objectivity to our world view.

Assessments can bring an objectivity factor to the discussions of what is making this group function? What are the Strengths and what are the shortcomings? Again, assessments to the rescue. This process can bring clear and accurate trends to the table for discussion and action commitments.

I have seen the results of an organizational survey open the eyes of key executives who had different and subjective opinions about the quality of their leadership – and get a good dose of reality. They were able to take this information and use it to communicate actions that were meaningful to their people – who in turn responded with positive actions that lead to positive results.

I have seen executives get feedback from their teams regarding specific performance issues using 360’s or specialty reports regarding the team dynamics. This feedback is used in an objective manner to influence the quality of future decisions and actions.

Assessments work for the good of an organization or group. Get an advantage through the use of assessments that give insight and understanding into what makes an organization work well. What strengths are we using well and what areas need to have a reality check regarding performance.

Performance Management needs objectivity to work properly. Assessments is one tool that should be used to uncover performance matrix and standards. Assessments can also tell us if our strategy is working for our team members. Again, objectivity is needed in a world full of opinions, ideas and assumptions. Clear the air and get the facts.

If you have any questions regarding the proper use of assessments in your organization, please contact us at 901-757-4434. We have over 20 years of experience in assisting organizations and individuals in the use of assessments and how to use the data to improve the quality of performance.