You might think that business is all about facts and figures. In truth, as the world and business get more uncertain and complex, successful leaders need to embrace soft skills to get the best out of their people and themselves.
These are the opening words on the back cover of a book I read recently and which really spoke to me. The author’s views echo those I have long espoused concerning the importance of developing your Key Business Skills (KBS).
The book was one of several I read in my role as a judge for this year’s Business Book Awards. In total over 240 books were submitted and, of these, 24 were in the self development category that I was judging (as part of a small team). I have been a judge many times for accounting and tax related awards. Never before have I had to read full books. Thank goodness for the lockdown!
We quickly shortlisted 6 of the 24 and then I read these 6 over as many weeks while having my morning cuppa and instead of watching breakfast TV!
All 6 were good but one stood out such that I knew I would be writing about it. Fortunately my fellow judges agreed and ‘Soft skills, Hard results’ has now been announced as the winner of the Business Book of the year in the self development category.
In the book, the author, Anne Taylor, explains soft skills in simple terms with very practical advice and tools to change behaviour and get better results.
Whilst not focused on accountants, the lessons, benefits and insights shared will be just as valuable to us as to all analytical leaders and business advisers.
Anne talks about soft skills delivering hard results. Her focus is on people skills, working with clients, negotiating changes to the scope of work, agreeing solutions, managing conflict and keeping everyone committed. There’s a fab example in the introduction as to the tangible cost of poor soft skills.
She explains the benefits of leading more from your heart (emotional, collaborative and vulnerable) so as to engage your teams more. I would add, that such an approach also makes it easier for clients to relate to you and to be more inclined to seek out, listen to and follow your advice.
Among the challenges that Anne suggests demand a different, more motivational and inspiring way of leading are:
- Rising intergenerational differences with millennials and Generation Z in the workforce;
- Increasing stress and emotions of and among staff;
- Setting yourself apart from your peers;
- Escalating speed and uncertainty of technology, competition, regulation and consumer needs/wants;
- Trying to achieve more with less;
- Addressing feedback that you could be warmer, more people orientated and inspiring;
- Increasing confidence, competence and empathy in your interpersonal interactions
And I entirely agree that boosting your Key Business Skills are vital to addressing such challenges. You may already know that I have long challenged the idea that soft skills are fluffy, obvious and instinctive. Too many accountants make the mistake of thinking that technical skills are hard (vs soft) and that they are all that matter.
The longer you are in practice, engaging with clients and managing staff the more you tend to realise that (so-called) soft skills are crucial to your work.
Yes, if you fail to keep up to date technically you could give poor advice and get sued. But equally, the more you focus on developing key business skills, the more you increase your chances of winning (over) more prospects, engaging, motivating and inspiring staff, boosting referrals, reducing stress and so much more.
‘Soft skills Hard results’ is a practical guide to understanding and using people/soft skills in the workplace and beyond, Anne takes us through ten principles of soft skills in a logical and progressive way. Each chapter ends with a challenge that you can implement immediately. By taking on these challenges and the user-friendly tips and tricks you will improve your everyday working life and, I hope, see benefits in your bottom-line results and long-term fulfilment.
The book is aimed specifically at people who prefer facts and who might not consider themselves to be natural people people. I have met many accountants who might fit this tick this box. Hence it has my unreserved recommendation.
Soft skills Hard Results – by Anne Taylor, published by Practical Inspiration publishing. You can download the first chapter free at: www.directions-coaching.com/book
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