3 Ways to Develop Soft Skills in Your Team
Soft skills like critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability have always been necessary for accounting professionals. But with the current shift in focus from transactional and compliance work to more strategic and advisory roles, soft skills are more critical than ever. According to a study from the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation, 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% comes from technical knowledge. It’s simply not enough to depend on technical skills alone. Many firms seek to hire employees with those skills, but it’s just as important to help existing employees improve them. With that in mind, here are three ways to develop soft skills in your team.
Employees won’t develop soft skills by reading books alone, but they’re an excellent place to start. There are many excellent books on soft skills. Here are a few good ones:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White
Reading about a concept is a great start, but to really stick, skills need to be reinforced with real-world practice. For instance, you can let employees take turns leading meetings to develop public speaking skills, encourage people to work together on projects to improve teamwork and problem solving, and set up brainstorms on different issues to sharpen creativity.
Ensure that everyone knows how essential soft skills are by incorporating soft skill-related goals into individual 90-Day Game Plans. Remember: you are what you measure.
Lead by example
Do the leaders in your firm demonstrate the soft skills needed for success? If you want your people to have good listening skills, make sure partners, managers and in-charges give people their undivided attention. If you're going to build employees delegation skills, you need to show them how its done by handing off work, communicating expectations and providing resources for them to get the job done. “Do as I say, not as I do” is never an effective way to lead.
Consider creating a mentorship program to pair new employees with seasoned employees in the organization who are already demonstrating the desired behaviors. Mentoring relationships in and of themselves help people improve soft skills such as listening and giving and receiving feedback because they use those skills in the relationship itself.
The need for soft skills will continue to grow as the value of our profession depends more on relationships and less on the ability to accurately prepare tax returns and financial statements. Developing soft skills in your team is a process. It takes time, but in the end, the time invested will be worth it – both to the employees involved and your firm’s bottom line!
As a Project Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Jacqueline plans, executes and manages the people, resources and scope of many of our firm’s projects, programs and events. Jackie supports multiple phases of our business by providing assistance and constant communication with clients and sponsors, and by serving as an event liaison for programs and consulting engagements. Her primary roles include overseeing Lean Six Sigma Consulting and The Boomer Technology Circles™ Partnering Sponsor Program. Jackie thrives at the opportunities to build new relationships.