An MBA is great – but you’ll need soft skills to make an impactPosted on: December 3, 2018
This article “An MBA is great – but you’ll need soft skills to make an impact” was published on the Association of MBAs (AMBA) web site on 23 November 2018.
They don’t teach you about soft skills and relationships at Business School, but these are what could make the vital difference to career success, says Kim Tasso
Studying for an MBA is hard. Especially if you do so while holding down a full-time job and raising a family. I know because that’s how I studied mine. I remember poring over corporate finance text books while rocking my son’s cradle on a seaside holiday.
An MBA is about acquiring knowledge and exploring case studies. Then you apply it to your own organisation. But it’s hard to implement a strategy and drive change. Why? Because of people.
The importance of ‘soft’ people skills
Even the most autonomous technology jobs require collaboration with other tech folk, explanations with funders or discussions with users. Business relationships are important when you are trying to secure a job or interview a prospective recruit, joining a team or helping a group perform better, whether you are trying to understand how to impress your boss or develop the potential of those who report to you, whether you are seeking a promotion or disciplining someone and whether you are negotiating with suppliers or selling solutions to clients.
We have a natural rapport with between 10% and 30% of the people we meet. So we need to be adept at recognising and adapting our behaviour if we want to get on with the vast majority. We need rapport if we want to influence, persuade and motivate people or change the way that they think or behave. It’s even more challenging in a multi-national environment where a host of cultural differences come into play.
In 2012, futurologist Ian Pearson predicted that the majority of jobs would be automated and humans will be relegated to a parallel ‘care economy’ based on emotional skills, not physical or intellectual ones. His suggestion was that those who mastered human skills would be those most likely to still have jobs.
The role of emotions
The way we interpret our emotions and those displayed by others is individual. Our perceptions are shaped by filters which are, in turn, driven by our mental model of the world. And these consist of memories that are affected by the strength of emotions we experienced at the time.
Emotional commitment is four times stronger than rational commitment and a company with high employee commitment delivers two to three times more shareholder value.
Emotional intelligence is critical for leaders
90% of high performers are also high in EQ – and people with high EQs make more money.
Researchers have found EQ skills to be more important to job performance than any other leadership skill.
How we say things is often more important that what we say – the emotional impact is paramount. Another HBR report finds that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts or figures.
How we deal with change
Psychologists suggest that we only change when we meet the right balance of learning anxiety and survival anxiety (the pressure to change). Learning anxiety involves fears of temporary incompetence, punishment for incompetence, loss of personal identity and loss of group membership.
Separate groups of scientists have discovered that there is an adaptive third which make transitions more easily than the majority of people.
Better Business Relationships
The DACRIE™ model, which is described in my book Better Business Relationships – Insights from psychology and management for working in a digital world provides a structure within which to consider the soft skills needed by leaders and managers:
- Difference and diversity – understanding yourself and other people
- Personality, style, perception and cognition
- Managing emotions, authenticity, emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy
- Gender, generation and cultural differences
- Adaptation and change
- Habits, filters and comfort zones
- Learning processes – managing change in ourselves and others
- Resilience and stress management
- Face-to-face, telephone, presentation, written and digital
- Non-verbal communication (NVC)
- Influence, persuasion and storytelling
- Relationships and conflict management
- Relationship management competencies including rapport and trust
- Different types of relationship and how they are formed
- Difficult behaviours, conflict management and negotiation
- Internal relationships
- Organisational culture, working with your manager and internal politics
- Groups and teams – styles, integration, buy-in and performance
- Delegation, coaching, feedback, motivation and leadership
- External relationships
- Self-esteem, confidence and client service
- Decision making processes – Selling yourself and your ideas
- Meetings, pitches, key accounts and referrer management